Australian cyclist Jai Hindley aims for more Grand Tour glory at La Vuelta, home of the World Championships

A month after his heroic victory at the Giro d’Italia, Australian cyclist Jai Hindley says he was still achieving the feat of becoming the second Australian to win a Grand Tour.

While the 26-year-old cyclist from Perth has not yet been able to return home to celebrate his victory, Hindley has felt the outpouring of support from the Australian sporting community from afar.

“It’s still really crazy when I think about it. I still can’t believe it, to be honest,” Hindley said.

“I was not [in Australia] but i felt a lot of support [from] everybody. It’s really good when you have that support [from] a whole community. It’s really, really special.”

In May, Hindley became the second Australian to win a grand tour, with Cadel Evans’ Tour de France triumph in 2011.

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And while things have calmed down off the road, the UCI WorldTeam cyclist Bora-Hansgrohe is more than aware of the importance of his victory, which could open up more opportunities among the elite of his sport: “100 % [it changes things].”

“It was really a massive achievement and a big dream for me since I was a young kid not just to be on a grand tour but, maybe, one day to win one…to do this now at 26 is a real game-changer for sure,” he admitted.

“You know, it’s something you work on for your whole career, your whole life.

“When you actually get that big result, I can’t describe it. I think it will open more doors and we’ll see what comes next.

“I’ve always had this confidence in myself and, yes, it doesn’t really change much in that aspect… but winning a grand tour, I think that would give me a lot more confidence, especially in the next grand tours than I do.”

Jai Hindley says winning the Giro d’Italia was a game-changer for his career, becoming the second Australian to win a grand tour.(Getty Images: Fabio Ferrari)

La Vuelta, home world championships on the radar

After his historic feat, Hindley’s attention now turns to the rest of the year, where he is aiming for more glory in the third leg of the grand tour at La Vuelta in August and the UCI Road World Championships on home soil. in September. , which will be hosted in Wollongong.

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Ahead of the Vuelta a España next month, there will be a high camp where Hindley is already preparing for the 23-day trip with just two days off.

A lot has changed for Hindley since the last event in 2019, where he finished 32nd. Next, the race pitted fellow Australians Jack Haig (third overall) against Michael Storer, who won the mountain classification.

“It will be a very tough race,” said Hindley. “A lot of real strong [general classification] the guys will be there so it’s going to be a classy peloton… the Giro guys, the lap guys will be there.

“I think the level will be really high and hopefully I can be up there. That would be pretty cool.”

After the grueling three-week race, Hindley says his focus will be on the world championships, with Australia set to host the event for the first time since 2010, when it was held in Geelong and Melbourne.

However, he will have to wait for selection to represent Australia, which he does not take for granted.

“I think everyone in the team will be worthy of this selection and I think they will bring a classy team to the race, so – hopefully – I can be there.

“If I can be there and wear the green and the gold at Wollongong, that would really be a once-in-a-career kind of race. That would be really good.”

The Western Australian government has also announced that it will seek to give Hindley a hero’s welcome for the Giro d’Italia winner.

“A lot of people have asked me what I think is good, and I think a big ride or something would be good, because then everyone can get involved: kids, parents, anyone who wants to let off steam can do a bit of a ride and it would be nice to see all those people who have been supporting me as well,” Hindley said.

“I think if we did something like that it would be really good.”

Although Hindley is not taking part in the Tour de France this month, he is already in his sights for next year.

Jai Hindley leads RIchard Carapaz with a crowd around the road ahead of them
Jai Hindley will be targeting the Vuelta a España and UCI World Championships on home soil this year in Wollongong as he looks to build on his success in 2022.(Getty Images: Sara Cavallini)

“It’s really difficult to manage this physical load… next year I would really like to go on the Tour,” he said.

“Whether it’s helping someone else in the team or going for the result myself, so be it.

“But I would really like to go out there and take all the experience and learn as much as I can, and also see what I can do at this highest level of cycling because it’s the pinnacle of our sport… I don’t I’ve done it before but I really want to do it.”

Hindley cites Cadel and Porte as cycling idols

After winning the Giro d’Italia this year – one place better than his podium in 2020 – Hindley reaffirmed his name among Australia’s road cycling elite, with Cadel Evans, Richie Porte and Jack Haig the only men to win. be placed on a grand tour podium.

When pressed for his place among these names, he is humble.

“All these old pioneers of Australian sport that I really look up to,” Hindley said.

“Especially guys like Richie and Cadel, when you look at them, they’re exceptional drivers.”

Hindley added that Australian camaraderie was something that could not be taken for granted in sport, including camaraderie, respect and a supportive environment of mentors and idols.

“I spoke to Cadel, really for the first time, a few years ago when I was second in the Giro. He sent me a very nice message before the [time trial]. He had been in situations like this before, and he reached out and told me that if I needed someone to talk to, he would always be there.

“It’s really special. I don’t think you get that in too many other sports.

“It’s really good to have the support of those guys too, because they were my idols.”

Jai Hindley is pictured in the Giro d'Italia leader's pink top as he crosses the finish line
Only four Australian men have crossed the finish line for a grand tour podium: Jai Hindley, Jack Haig, Richie Porte and Cadel Evans.(Getty Images: Tim de Waele)

For now, however, Hindley is still proud of his success in Europe.

“I think I still have a few more bike races to win to be in the same category as those guys, but yeah it’s really good to be the first Australian to win the Giro,” he said. -he declares.

“Having my name in the history books is really cool, but I still have a lot of work to do with these guys. Still a little while for that to happen.”

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