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Hincapie puts his head down

Lance Armstrong's seven Tour de France titles are under threat should doping charges be upheld against him.

Lance Armstrong's seven Tour de France titles are under threat should doping charges be upheld against him. Photo: AFP

GEORGE HINCAPIE, one of the key BMC lieutenants to Tour de France champion Cadel Evans, has vowed to not to let his alleged involvement in an anti-doping investigation into seven-time race winner Lance Armstrong get in the way of helping the Australian win back-to-back titles.

Hincapie was yesterday one of five former teammates of Armstrong named by the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf as one of 10 witnesses for the United States Anti-Doping Agency, which has formally charged Armstrong with a variety of doping offences between 1999 and 2011.

The four other names published by the newspaper were riders Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quick-Step), Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Sharp), and David Zabriskie (Garmin-Sharp) and Jonathan Vaughters, who is now manager of the American-registered Garmin-Sharp team.

George Hincapie, right, is Cadel Evans' lieutenant on the Tour de France.

George Hincapie, right, is Cadel Evans' lieutenant on the Tour de France. Photo: Getty Images

Hincapie is the only one who was with Armstrong for all seven of his Tour titles. All five are in the Tour and were sought for comment at the start of Thursday's 196.5 kilometre fifth stage from Rouen to Saint-Quentin.

At the BMC team bus, it was business as usual, as the riders prepared for the race. Hincapie agreed to talk but was typically guarded.

Asked if he had testified to USADA and, if so, what he said, he said: ''I am just disappointed with this being brought up once again. I have always done the right thing for the sport. Right now I am here to do my job and I'm going to focus on that.

Mellow yellow ... Fabian Cancellara, in the Tour leader's jersey, rides with the pack during the 214.5km fourth stage from Abbeville to Rouen, which was won by Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) from Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD) and Tom Veelers (Argos-Shimano).

Mellow yellow ... Fabian Cancellara, in the Tour leader's jersey, rides with the pack during the 214.5km fourth stage from Abbeville to Rouen, which was won by Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) from Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD) and Tom Veelers (Argos-Shimano). Photo: AP

''BMC has got nothing do with this. Cadel is obviously focused on winning the Tour and … I'm going to continue to do that and try not to let anything get in my mind besides that.'' Hincapie said he had not spoken to Armstrong ''in a while'' but again supported him, saying: ''I feel bad that he is going through all this. Lance has done so many things for the sport. His accomplishments are incredible. What he has achieved in the sport of cycling, the attention he has brought to the sport of cycling and what he has done to the cancer society … is honourable. That's all I have to say about that.''

Earlier, BMC team president Jim Ochowicz said Hincapie was remaining as focused as he had ever been on the Tour, which finishes in Paris on Sunday, July 22. Ochowicz would not comment on the De Telegraaf report. ''I can tell you that we have not received any notification from any authority on this issue at all,'' he said. ''Therefore we have no comment.''

Asked if the controversy had effected Hincapie's mindset, Ochowicz said: ''No … George is here to race the Tour de France and just like yesterday morning, he is preparing for today's race.''

Speculation had been rife that the four current riders had testified against Armstrong when they mysteriously ruled themselves out of selection for the US Olympic road team.

De Telegraaf also alleged the four riders had been banned for six months after they confessed to doping and testified against Armstrong, but that these penalties would not start until much later this year.

Garmin-Sharp issued a statement saying Vaughters, Zabriskie and Vande Velde had not been banned.

with AAP

Twitter - @rupertguinness

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