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Giro d'Italia

Giro d’Italia: Jai Hindley spurred on to pink jersey success by 2020 disappointment

The Australian says he's been working on his TT skills since moving to Bora-Hansgrohe over the winter.

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VERONA, Italy (VN) — The disappointment of losing the Giro d’Italia pink jersey on the final day in 2020 spurred Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) on towards his victory this year.

Hindley went into the Milan time trial two years ago equal on time with Tao Geoghegan Hart but lost out by 39 seconds. He wasn’t among the big favorites for the win going into that Giro d’Italia but that didn’t prevent the bitter disappointment he felt afterward.

This year, he wasn’t going to suffer a repeat in the time trial with a sizeable lead over Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) at the start of the final stage. He gave away seven seconds to the Ecuadorian in the 17.4km test around Verona but he had more than enough of a gap to take a comfortable overall win.

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“After 2020 to come so close to the win, and then to lose it on the last day was brutal, if I’m honest. Actually, it took me a long time to really get over that,” Hindley said in his post-race press conference. “For sure, a lot of people were probably surprised that I was in that situation. But yeah, you know, to lose the race.

“Of course, I was happy to be on the podium but to lose the race on the last day, it really hurt. I thought about that day for a long time in training and it’s really been a big motivation.”

After the disappointment of 2020, last year was supposed to be a chance for Hindley to back up what he did and prove it wasn’t a one-off performance. However, a series of illnesses and injuries saw him quit the 2021 Giro d’Italia in the second week and he competed in just 39 race days across the entire year.

During this year’s Giro d’Italia, Hindley has been very open about the challenges that he’s faced since that October day in Milan. He said that the resilience he’s had to build up as an Australian living and racing in Europe helped him get through and it the difficulties have made him stronger.

“When you’re from Australia, and you’re a professional cyclist, I think you have to be pretty tough mentally. I think a lot of people take for granted how hard it actually is,” Hindley explained. “It’s not like I can just jump on a Ryanair flight on a weekend and we go back home for 50 euro or something. It’s not possible. When you throw COVID into the mix it’s really hard.

“Last year, I really got beat around a lot on the bike and off the bike and it was a tough year. I think I came out better for it. I can really appreciate seeing my family again today. I think at the end of the year. I’ll go home and savor every minute, every minute of it.”

Hindley’s parents was at the finish in Verona to welcome their son home as the first Australian to win the Giro d’Italia. It was the first time he had seen them since the start of 2020 after COVID restrictions made it impossible for him to return home and for them to travel to Europe to see him.

“When you’re going through all this on the bike, and then you also can’t see your family, it’s a really tough time. A few days ago, I found out that my parents were going to be coming to the finish and I was really blown away. To not see your parents for two and a half years, it’s unbelievable. To have them at the finish in the arena was really special.”

Working on time trial

Before Hindley managed to crack Carapaz and give himself a huge buffer, the Australian’s time trial was under heavy scrutiny. He had lost one Giro d’Italia winning opportunity due to his abilities against the clock and it could happen again.

Since moving to Bora-Hansgrohe, Hindley says he has spent time trying to refine his time trialing. It wasn’t with this Giro d’Italia TT in mind, but something he feels he should have in his armory as a GC rider.

“Bora-Hansgrohe has invested quite a lot of time and energy into helping me improve the time trialing,” Hindley said. “I went to California, and I went to the Specialized headquarters and did quite a bit of spend quite a bit of time in the wind tunnel trying to work on a better position on the other new setup. I think it’s helped a lot. That as well as you know, doing a lot of specific training on the TT bike I think it’s for sure helped.

“It wasn’t really like a big focus, like today’s TT or something like that. But I think it’s just a good goal in general for me to improve my time trialing. I think if I improve my time, it also helps on aspects of my racing.”

With his victory at the Giro d’Italia, Hindley enters the history books of Australian cycling. Not only is he the country’s first winner of the Italian grand tour, but he is also only the second rider from the country, after Cadel Evans, to win a three-week race.

While overall wins at the three biggest races on the calendar have been few, Hindley does join a long list of Australians that have performed at the highest level in Europe. He found some of his early inspiration in watching those riders make their way, and win, in the sport.

“When I was a young boy and I first started watching cycling, I really admired Robbie McEwen. To see an Aussie guy wearing the national champion jersey, sprinting for wins at the Tour de France was really incredible,” Hindley said. “As I got older, I actually had a good mate and a former pro cyclist Rob Power, who was actually a huge inspiration to me. We came from a really similar background, and we were also in the same local team and he was a year older than me.

“He was really like an elder brother figure for me, and really someone that I could look up to. He was really a guy that I could relate to, and when I was a teenager, he was probably like, one of my biggest inspirations.”