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Jai Hindley: Riding a UCI Road World Championships on home soil is a ‘once-in-a-career opportunity’

The Australian closes out 'best year to date' with aggressive ride on home soil in worlds road race.

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SYDNEY, Australia (VN) — Jai Hindley’s UCI Road World Championships almost never happened after the Australian caught COVID just two weeks before the road race.

In addition to the potential ramifications of a viral infection, Hindley couldn’t travel to his home country until he was returning negative tests.

Fortunately for him, COVID didn’t take too much out of him, and he shook it off in time to travel down under. Though the course was not ideal for him, Hindley was keen to get an opportunity to race in front of home crowds and work for the team’s leader Michael Matthews.

“It’s like a once-in-a-career opportunity to do the worlds on home soil. The atmosphere is electric out there, the fans are incredible,” Hindley said after finishing the race. “It was awesome. I really hope that it boosts the sport in Australia and gets it a bit more exposure. I mean, I think I speak for all of the boys when I say that we had a really fun time. It was so cool.

“I wasn’t too sure how the body would react after COVID but I knew that I had the Vuelta in the legs and that was good preparation for coming here. Fortunately, I had pretty light symptoms and I could recover quick, and I could get back on the bike. It was nice and it was a pretty epic day out there today and it was super hard. I was happy that I could play a bit of a role and help the guys up the road. To have Bling [Matthews -ed] on the podium is pretty incredible. On home soil, it’s pretty special.”

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Hindley played a pivotal role for the Australians, getting into the key breakaway with just under 80 kilometers remaining. It allowed the rest of his teammates to rest up a little more in the main peloton, leaving other nations to do the work.

However, he wasn’t able to match the power of Remco Evenepoel when he attacked with two laps to go and distanced all but one of the breakaway riders.

“I was happy to be there and take a bit of pressure off,” he said. “Remco is a pretty incredible rider. He’s just come off a Vuelta win, a TT medal earlier this week, he’s a special rider and I think everyone in that group knew that he would be very hard to follow. It was a bit like survival mode, I was just trying to mark him on the coast, but it was pretty bloody hard. It was killing me every time I had to follow him. He was the strongest guy on the day.”

The group that Hindley was in was eventually reeled in by remnants of the bunch as it started to break up on the final lap. The last passage of Mount Ousley and Mount Pleasant was the last straw or Hindley as he waned following a busy day on the move.

It was all he could do to put in a dig for his teammate Matthews, before the lights finally went out. The group that Matthews was in was able to catch the remaining chase group behind the now solo Evenepoel, allowing Matthews to sprint for bronze.

“I think I got passed by [Wout] van Aert, [Alberto] Bettiol, and one more guy at the top of the climb. I think they almost sucked my helmet off,” Hindley laughed. “I was almost at a standstill at that point. I knew Bling was definitely up for a chance today and I knew it was going to be there or thereabouts.

“At that point, I was about to pass out, I was so buckled. When his group came, I just tried to go as hard as I could, and then I was completely caput. It’s like that. It was a super hard race and I’m happy that I could be at the pointy end and play a role.”

For Hindley, the world championships mark the end of what has been a pretty strong 2022 campaign. After suffering badly with injury throughout 2021, the Australian swapped to Bora-Hansgrohe over the winter and went on to take his first-ever grand tour victory at the Giro d’Italia.

“It was probably my best year to date, with the Giro win and a stage win. I still can’t believe it. It still hasn’t sunk in and probably never will,” Hindley said. “It was just a nice year personally, especially after such a tough year last year to change to a new team and win a grand tour in my first year with the team was really cool. I appreciate the opportunities they gave me throughout the year.

“To come to Aus and finish the season with the world championships is also pretty special. I’m looking forward to sinking a few beers tonight and putting my feet up on the couch.”