George Hincapie triumphant on Pla d'Adet (Image from AFP)

Women love him because he's, well, George, and men admire and appreciate him for his loyalty to Lance. He's always been the Pippen to Armstrong's Jordan, the talented and trustworthy comrade, the selfless wingman, and today he got his first ever stage win at the Tour de France on the hardest stage of the Tour. Everyone loves George, always such an unassuming good guy. For such a big guy, he's made a miraculous transformation in the past several years, becoming a very respectable climber. He's married to a podium girl and living the dream.

George and Brunyeel decided that since T-Mobile had been attacking early to shed Armstrong's teammates, Hincapie should go with an early break so that if the leaders caught up, he'd be there to stay with Armstrong. T-Mobile parried, and Team Discovery Channel countered. Since he was in the lead group purely to wait for Lance, Hincapie didn't have to pull. His only goal was to stick with the group and wait to see if Armstrong would show up. Thus he didn't have to work as hard as the others in the lead group, and when they all fell away, he had the freshest legs for the finishing sprint.

Such a story-dense stage on the climb to Pla d'Adet. George was racing for the stage win in the lead group. Armstrong marked Ullrich and Basso, and then just Basso. Ullrich, again, couldn't keep the wheel of Basso and Armstrong when they accelerated, but he tried to keep them in sight, paced by his teammate Oscar Sevilla. Behind him, Rasmussen fought to preserve third place, and just behind his wheel was Mancebo, his face always a rictus of pain, trying not to lose too much time to Ullrich in the GC.

No more massive mountain finishes, though a few challenging stages remain (these things are all relative, as all the stages are killer to mere mortals like myself). But Basso couldn't shed Armstrong, and so it looks like a week-long coronation for Lance as long as he can avoid trouble. There will be some interesting battles among riders in places 2 through 11, especially in the stage 20 time trial, and a good battle for the green jersey between McEwen, O'Grady, and Hushovd, but for the yellow jersey this is sendoff week for its greatest champion.