The world of cycling has long produced many talents that have become household names around the world, individuals coloured by flair and buoyant charisma that makes them either loveable or detested by some. For Australia’s Jai Hindley though, few characters on the professional circuit are as likeable as the cycling star. The Western Australian is the personification of grit and unwavering determination, refusing to give up no matter the struggle ahead.
Many fans of the sport will recall the 2020 Giro which saw Hindley ride into the pink on the penultimate stage, finishing with the same time as Tao Geoghegan Hart. Unfortunately, his enjoyment of the jersey was short-lived as Geoghegan Hart managed to complete the final-stage time trial kilometres around Milan in a time 39 seconds faster than Hindley, nabbing the Giro victory at the last moment. The brutal loss seemed to only spur Hindley on and while he’s certainly suffered in the years since what with illness, crashes and broken bones, he’s finally claimed victory at the 2022 Giro d’Italia.
Hindley started the event several rungs down the favourites’ ladder only to emerge as one of the race’s top climbers. Soon, he cemented his name as the one to watch, defeating other contestants which included former Giro champions, and going on to finish more than a minute clear of 2019’s winner, Carapaz.
While Hindley’s performance on the bike is remarkable, it’s his personality that has the power to not only charm audiences around the world, but also see cycling become an accessible sport for younger generations and those buddying enthusiasts looking to chase lofty dreams. One of the strand out moments came when Hindley gave an interview on the second rest day, confusing many and entertaining most with the line, “We’re not here to put socks on centipedes, I’ll die for the jersey tomorrow.”
Speaking about the victory, the 26-year-old Hindley said, “It’s a beautiful feeling. There were a lot of emotions out there today. To take the win is really incredible.”
With the victory, Hindley becomes the first Aussie to win the Giro in its 105th edition and now stands alongside the likes of Cadel Evans, who made history after winning the 2011 Tour de France, as the only two Australians to have won a Grand Tour. Asked what the significance of such an occasion meant to him, an emotional Hindley expressed: “It’s really incredible man. I’m really proud to be Australian and happy to take this home.”
Hindley’s win marks an exciting time for Australian cycling as the country continues to emerge as a general classification power. In four of the last seven Grand Tours, Aussie riders have stood on the podium with each tour presenting an opportunity for the rising crop of riders to challenge for the leaders jersey. A lot of this is owed to Cadel Evans, whose second-place finish at the 2007 Tour de France began a run of five podium finishes in his next 10 Grand Tour starts. Evans achieved three podiums at the Tour de France – including his 2011 victory – and had a third-place finish at the Giro in 2013 and Vuelta in 2009.
Richie Porte is also a two-time winner of the Tour Down Under, kick-starting Australia’s recent run with podium finishes at the 2020 Tour de France while marking the Tour Down Under as a tour worthy of attracting the best riders from around the world. With Hindley’s victory, it’s only hoped that the sport continues to grow here on home soil as more people look up to those Aussie riders giving it all to achieve their dreams.