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Team Sunweb held the pink jersey for three days with two different riders in the final four stages of the Giro d’Italia. However, it was neither Jai Hindley nor Wilco Kelderman that ended the race with the Maglia Rosa on their back.
The Sunweb duo took second and third overall behind Tao Geoghegan Hart, who took the race lead on the final stage of the race having bettered Hindley’s time trial through the streets of Milano.
The post-race beers on the Sunweb bus will come with a slight taste of disappointment having come to within one day – or 39-seconds – from securing the pink jersey.
“Of course, it’s super disappointing to lose the jersey on the last day like that,” said Hindley, who started the day level on time with Geoghegan Hart. “At the moment, it’s pretty hard to take, but I think when I look back, I’ll be super-proud of the way the team and I rode the last three weeks. It’s a massive step forward in my career and it’s three weeks I’ll never forget.”
Hindley started to show his potential last season, taking second overall at the Tour of Poland last summer before going on to dominate the Herald Sun Tour this winter with two stage wins and the overall. However, few would have bet on the young Australian to be riding high at this year’s Giro, particularly given he started the race riding in support of Kelderman. His ride in Italy will catapult him into the spotlight.
Like Hindley, Kelderman was still struggling to swallow the bitter pill of coming so close to winning the race when he spoke moments after the podium ceremony.
“I’m happy, but we lost the race on the last day,” Kelderman said. “We were both on the podium, that’s good, but on the other hand, it felt a bit strange .”
Kelderman knew he was odds-on for a third-place overall having started 1:32 down on the leading pair and with over one minute of a gap on fourth-place Pello Bilbao. That didn’t make it any easier for the Dutchman, riding in his final season with Sunweb before moving across to Bora Hansgrohe.
Third at the Giro is Kelderman’s best grand tour result to date, but having ridden himself into the position of favorite for the race until cracking twice in the high mountains, he acknowledged his Giro will always carry the question of ‘What if.’
“If you had told me in advance that I would finish on the podium, I would have been very happy,” he said. “Next week I will think about it and I’m sure I will be super-happy.”
Sunweb’s Giro two-three marks the continuation of a stellar season for the squad, who animated the Tour de France with three stage wins in a three-week spell that put Marc Hirschi on the map as the new red-hot young talent in the WorldTour. When Mitchelton-Scott and Jumbo-Visma pulled out of the Giro in the first week due to COVID-19 cases and Ineos Grenadiers put their initial GC ambitions to bed, Sunweb duly stepped up and controlled the race for much of the second and third weeks for then-leader Kelderman as Hindley played superdomestique.
“We’ve had a lot of highs and lows throughout the three weeks but when we needed the guys then they were all there and rode strongly as a team together,” said team coach Luke Roberts. “I think we can be proud, we were up against a tough opponent.”
“We can walk away happy from this race with the two spots on the podium, the stage win, some days in the pink jersey; it’s been a great race for the team.”
Sunweb will be celebrating Sunday night, though the beers may not taste as sweet as they could have been.
“I’m definitely keen to put the feet up for a bit and sink some cheeky bevvies,” Hindley said after the stage. Kelderman was in agreement when asked for his plans.
“First drink a lot of beers and enjoy it with the group, and then see what happens,” he said.