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With a week to go in the 2022 Giro d’Italia the race is still wide open but Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) arguably sits in the best position of all the GC contenders, at just seven seconds behind maglia rosa Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers).
Hindley hasn’t put a foot wrong in the race, winning a mountain stage already, and matching all of his key rivals, including Carapaz, at every opportunity.
The Australian, who finished second in the race two years ago, also has the strongest team in the race at his disposal, and after Bora-Hansgrohe’s collective strength blew the race apart on stage 14, Hindley is in fine spirits as the Giro enters its most critical phase.
“Pretty much every day is going to be super hard, and I’m looking forward to it,” Hindley said during his rest-day press conference on Monday.
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In a relaxed mood, Hindley cracked a broad smile when Australian journalist Sophie Smith asked him if he was here to win the Giro d’Italia given his obvious form and strong position in the GC.
“For sure and 100 percent. I’m not here to put socks on centipedes, Sophie. We’re here to win the race and, why not. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think that the team could win. We’re all in to try and win the race.”
Such confidence, and it certainly should be construed as arrogance, displays a complete turnaround from the 2021 version of Hindley. Last year the Australian never found his footing and he was constantly chasing form and fitness after several setbacks. He wasn’t able to replicate his 2020 result at the Giro d’Italia and that certainly weighed heavily on the 26-year-old’s shoulders.
This year he looks even better than he did in 2020, more assured, more relaxed and so far, faultless on the pedals. Richard Carapaz has spent a lot of energy and time off the front to generate a seven second lead.
“I had a lot of things going which made it a super hard year and a difficult period and I could talk about it all day. It was really frustrating because I finished 2020 with second place at the Giro and then I had really high expectations coming into 2021,” he said.
“I wanted to prove to people, and more so myself, that I was capable of riding at that level and that 2020 wasn’t just a fluke, like a lot of people on social media think. It was really frustrating to have all these setbacks and have all that stuff going on.
“It ruined my year but I didn’t lose focus, even with all the setbacks. I trained really hard to get back to a high level. After each setback I kept losing the form and that was hard to compete at a decent level but ultimately a change of team was a new start and breath of fresh air. It was like pressing the reset button.”
Having Wilco Kelderman and Emanuel Buchmann as his wingmen in the mountains of this year’s Giro has certainly helped. The Bora team have been resolute and decisive in their approach, and the trident of leadership ensured that Hindley only had to step into the spotlight when he needed to, almost a week into the race.
“It’s a big benefit. The press love to question teams about multiple leadership and this, that and the other, but actually in modern day cycling it’s common to have multiple leaders in a grand tour.
“I was pretty happy that Wilco and Buchmann were here, not only because it takes the pressure off of one guy but if everyone is high on the GC then you can use that to your advantage when it comes to tactics in the finals. It’s a huge advantage. It’s also important that the other leaders don’t have big egos, and no one on this team does. As you saw in Torino, Wilco was phenomenal and that I really appreciated.”
Next up is stage 16 and a mammoth stage to Aprica that includes the Mortirolo. The race is expected to be turned on its head with the seconds that separate the top few contenders expanding into minutes once the dust settles. Hindley knows how crucial the stage can be for his overall ambitions.
“For sure, tomorrow is going to be epic. Straight out the gates it’s going to be a really hard stage. Also after the rest day it’s always an interesting one. Guys have mixed feelings after a rest day and honestly tomorrow we could see some big things happening with guys gaining or losing time. I’m keen to be up there at the pointy end.”