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MARMOLADA PASSO FEDAIA, Italy (VN) — Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) described his return to the pink jersey as an emotional moment after taking a commanding lead in the Giro d’Italia with just one day to go.
Hindley last wore the maglia rosa in 2020, after he took hold of it on the penultimate day — just as he has done this year. He went into the final stage equal on time with Tao Geoghegan Hart but lost out on the overall win after giving away nearly 40 seconds in the flat final time trial.
The Australian has a far larger lead going into the final stage this time around with a massive 1:25 over Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) after the Ecuadorian cracked in the final kilometers of the Marmolada. Hindley will be hoping that this buffer will be more than enough to keep him in pink by the end of Sunday.
“I knew from a pretty young age that I wanted to be a professional cyclist and it’s all I’ve dreamed about. To be at the Giro d’Italia and wearing the pink jersey on the second last day, like I did two years ago, it’s really emotional. It’s really special,” Hindley said in his post-race press conference
“It was a really bumpy road to get back here, with a tough season last year. I didn’t know if I was going to be back in this jersey again, but now I am thankful to all the people who got me here.”
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Hindley made his breakthrough at the 2020 Giro d’Italia, ultimately finishing second to Geoghegan Hart following that final time trial. He returned to the race last year as a co-leader with Romain Bardet at team DSM and had high hopes of building on his performance, but it wasn’t to be.
Illness and injury plagued his preparation for the grand tour and it wouldn’t get any better when he started the race. After getting sick again, he would eventually pull out of the race following stage 13 and wouldn’t compete again until the end of July at Clásica San Sebastián.
The season was a series of setbacks and frustrations for Hindley, which makes returning to the top just a little bit sweeter.
“I finished the Giro in 2020 and I was super motivated to prove myself that I was capable of riding at that level consistently. I worked super hard in 2021 to be at a good level and I had quite a lot of illness,” he said. “I went to the Tour of the Alps and the form was coming along and then on the second-last day I crashed super hard on a descent and had stitches in my knee. I was on antibiotics a week before the Giro and then I came to the Giro, I was sick after four days and then after the strade bianche stage I got really bad saddle sores.
“It took me off the bike completely for around one month and then after that I tried to get ready for the Vuelta again and in the end I wasn’t selected for the team. It was a very frustrating year. I had people asking me, ‘was 2020 a fluke’ and actually the whole of last year I was super motivated, and I trained well, but in the end, it didn’t work out. It was very frustrating, but with the support of people in my inner circle I could get back to that level this year. It’s been a bumpy ride but I’m happy to be here.”
Picking the right moment
Hindley and his Bora-Hansgrohe teammates kept their powder dry for much of the stage, allowing both Bahrain-Victorious and Ineos Grenadiers do most of the work.
The only early move they made was allowing Lennard Kӓmna stay in the breakaway, which proved to be a very wise decision as the German helped pace Hindley after he had attacked, giving him a small moment of respite.
“The initial plan wasn’t to have someone in the break but when Lenny was in there then we said on the radio keep cool until the final climb and we’ll try to use him as a satellite rider,” Hindley said. “It was really a phenomenal ride from him today, to be out there in the break all day and drop back at that important moment and really give me this pull there in that part of the race was crucial. It was a phenomenal ride from him today and I’m very thankful.”
Bora-Hansgrohe has been one of, if not the, strongest teams during this year’s Giro d’Italia. The team opened up the race in dramatic style during a frenetic stage in Turin last Saturday. Since then, the team has been biding its time and waiting for a moment to do something again.
That moment finally came inside the final five kilometers of the Marmolada as Hindley attacked when Pavel Sivakov had finished his work for Carapaz.
“As a team, we rode a pretty smart race, we tried not to burn energy when it was unnecessary. We were pretty calculated when we went for it, we tried to take our opportunities along the road when we could, without using too much energy,” Hindley explained.
“Today was a pretty crucial day with the final climb being so hard and I knew that if I wanted to do something in the race it would have to be today, regardless of how the legs were feeling. I gave it everything and when I heard that Carapaz was struggling a bit that was all the motivation I needed to go full gas to the line.”
Hindley also had a good word to say about his sport director Enrico Gasparotto, who joined the team at the start of the year.
“He’s been pretty crucial to have in the car. He was a really good rider, and he was a really calculated rider and to have that experience in the car is crucial,” Hindley said. “He knows a lot of the roads, he knows a lot of the riders, he knows a lot, to have that experience in your ear it was really important, but it wasn’t just him, the other DSs really did a phenomenal job.”