Who is Jai Hindley, the 'unknown' winner of the Giro d'Italia?
Almost a surprise for those less familiar with cycling, Jai Hindley was already on the verge of winning the Giro d'Italia in 2020.
Who is Jai Hindley?
When the list of favourites for the victory before the start of the Giro d'Italia was compiled, the name of Jai Hindley, 26-year-old Australian rider of a renewed Bora-Hansgrohe team, appeared on few rankings, despite his 5th place in Tirreno-Adriatico.
A squad that in this 2022 has given a complete change of direction after the departure of Peter Sagan from its roster. Orphaned by the Slovak, the German team has carried out a profound renovation with the incorporation of names such as Vlasov, Higuita, Sam Bennett or Jai Hindley himself.
A cyclist who as a child in Australia, like many at such a young age, dreamed of being a football player, until he saw the Tour de France on television and decided that this is what he wanted to do in life.
At the age of 18 he moved from Perth to the Italian city of Pescara on the Adriatic coast, where he became a cyclist battling in the countless races held in Italy until 2016 when he caught the eye of Mitchelton Scott who signed him up to their Continental team at the start of that campaign.
His good season in 2017, with the overall victory in the Herald Sun Tour in his homeland and, above all, his excellent performance in the Giro Baby in which he finished third behind Pavel Sivakov and Lucas Hamilton, made the eyes of the Sunweb team concentrate on him to take him to the World Tour the following season.
And so we come to the strange 2020 season, the season of the pandemic, which started well for him when he once again took victory in the Herald Sun Tour. But then came the hiatus and uncertainty over the whole world of cycling until the end of the summer when the races were gradually resumed.
In a Giro held in the middle of October, which seemed destined to end in Portugal thanks to the great role of Joao Almeida who maintained his dominance until day 17, a young Australian from Sunweb surprised everyone by winning in a superb way in the very hard alpine day that ended in Laghi di Cancano after crossing the fearsome Stelvio, placing him second in the general classification.
Two days later, in the prelude to the final time trial through the streets of Milan and with a stage that climbed Sestriere three times, Jai Hindley managed to subtract those seconds that separated him from the so far leader Wilco Kelderman to win the precious pink jersey although tied on time with the INEOS Grenadiers rider Tao Geoghegan.
An impossible fight given the British rider's time trial skills and in which Hindley lost 39 seconds that prevented him from completing his pink dream, leaving him with the honey on his lips and the feeling of a lost opportunity that you don't know if it will come again.
After a discreet 2021, the Australian moved on after four seasons with DSM, formerly Sunweb, to join the renewed Bora-Hansgrohe.
He was quick to repay the trust placed in him with a Giro d'Italia run head to head against Mikel Landa and Richard Carapaz in which he won the coveted maglia rosa with a single successful attack.
Jai Hindley is by no means the first winner of the Italian round who did not figure in any of the pools. Without going any further back, two years ago, when he finished second, Tao Geoghegan, whose role had always been that of a gregarious rider in the shadow of Chris Froome or Egan Bernal, was victorious.
If we go back to 2012 we find the figure of Ryder Hesjedal, a notorious mountain biker who despite having achieved some good results as a professional road cyclist could not be considered a candidate to win a great stage race like the Giro d'Italia. However, he was able to overcome a hard-riding Joaquim Rodriguez who, once again, fell just short of the grand tour he so richly deserved and could never add to his list of winners, as did Hindely himself in 2020, succumbing in the final time trial through the streets of Milan.
In any case, the victory of Jai Hindley should not detract from the fact that he was able to play his trump cards to perfection, resisting in the shadows while the list of favourites gradually decreased with the fiasco of Simon Yates, the withdrawals of Miguel Angel Lopez, Romain Barder and Joao Almeida, the latter, another with whom the Giro has a score to settle.
Hindley, knowing that he was one point behind Carapaz and Landa in the mountains, was able to work like an ant, day after day, resisting the attacks of his rivals, scraping seconds in the finishes to finally, in the last kilometres of the last pass of the last mountainous day, launch the decisive offensive which, on this occasion, was well worth a maglia rosa.