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Cyclist Magazine Podcast Episode 15 – Jai Hindley's Giro d'Italia

19 Nov 2020

Losing a Grand Tour by 39 seconds is a bitter pill to swallow. It is made even harder when you lose the race lead on the final stage.

Thankfully, 24-year-old Jai Hindley has a steady head upon his shoulders. Because while it was Tao Geoghegan Hart who took home the Giro d'Italia title, it was Team Sunweb's Hindley who came away knowing he is Australia's next Grand Tour big hope. 

The Cyclist Magazine Podcast sat down with Hindley for a long conversation around his Giro experience discussing everything from team leadership dynamics, struggling to put jackets on and coming within 15km of winning the Maglia Rosa.

We made the surprise revelation that Hindley is also half-Mancunian and chat about being the only boy at school who shaved his legs and wore lycra at the weekend.

For the full episode, listen below.

Alternatively, listen to us on Apple Podcasts here. Also remember to subscribe, share and review the Cyclist Magazine Podcast too.

Words: Joe Robinson Photography: Laura Fletcher

Cyclist: You surprised many by finishing second at this year’s Giro d’Italia, only losing the maglia rosa on the final day’s time-trial. Has it all sunk in yet?

Jai Hindley: Now the dust has settled, it’s mind-blowing! It really hit me when I started doing interviews – I had ABC and 7 News interview me, which is a big deal in Australia.

It’s pretty cool to get some mainstream media recognition because cycling isn’t the biggest sport at the best of times and the Giro was already contesting with the AFL grand final back home. If it had been a week later when the State of Origin rugby league was happening my result may as well have never happened!

Cyc: Team Sunweb sent you and eventual third-place Wilco Kelderman along as protected team leaders, but what were your personal expectations?

JH: I was nervous because I’d never ridden a Grand Tour as a protected leader and in my opinion I hadn’t done anything to warrant it. I’d trained the house down so I knew I had the form, but I was just hoping to scrape top 10. And then I’m rolling into Milan in pink on the last day. It was a big thing to process.

Cyc: A lot of people have since said your coming-of-age moment came when you won Stage 18, which featured the Stelvio. Did it feel like that for you?

JH: The night before the Stelvio I was struggling to sleep, I was so excited about what I could possibly do. I couldn’t stop thinking about it: uphill start, heaps of climbs all day and then a mountaintop finish. That’s my bread and butter.

Before it had begun I had already told myself I was winning that stage, but then we hit the Stelvio, all covered in snow, and I had a real goosebumps moment. There was just the lead car in front of me, two Ineos guys going full noise, time checks in my ears telling me about the massive names being spat. I knew it was epic bike racing when it was happening. It was pretty magical.

Cyc: While you won the stage, some may remember you for a comic moment where you couldn’t put your jacket on…

JH: Ah mate! So I gave that jacket to the soigneur to give to me at the summit but I’d put three or four gels in the left pocket, which weighed it down weirdly. I’d also put my gloves on before the jacket, which had tight sleeves, and I just couldn’t get it on! Everything that could go wrong went wrong, all on live TV, and I’m thinking, ‘Shit, this is going to be embarrassing, I can feel the memes already.’

After the stage I got messages from my family saying that they lost years of their life watching that happen.

Cyc: Come the final stage time-trial in Milan you found yourself in the race lead, tied with Tao Geoghegan Hart. How did you deal with the pressure?

JH: I wasn’t nervous until I hit the start ramp, then it really sunk in that there were no more guys starting after me. I was the last guy. I’m never the last guy in a time-trial!

Part of my head was like, ‘I can win this.’ Then the other part was like, ‘I just need to ride my own race.’ I knew the odds were stacked against me and I didn’t want bullshit from the team car. I wanted it said how it was on the radio.

It was agonising, riding those last kilometres knowing I wasn’t going to win. I was 15km away from winning the Giro. That’s rough. But some guys try their whole careers for what I achieved and never get it, and I got it in my third Grand Tour. I also got to roll through Milan head-to-toe in pink. That’s probably the coolest thing I’ve ever done on a bike.

Cyc: When Tom Dumoulin left last year questions were asked about the future of Team Sunweb, yet 12 months on and the team has been a revelation. What happened?

JH: To be honest I’m not surprised. I know Marc Hirschi is super-talented and Søren Kragh Andersen has been knocking on the door for a while. It’s just that it has all come at once. I think it also helps that the team has resources.

Some teams are potentially folding at the end of this year whereas we were able to take the men’s, women’s and development teams to Austria to train at altitude earlier this season.

Cyc: How does a guy from Perth, a city better known for Aussie rules football, get into bike racing?

JH: My dad is actually from Manchester and was an old racer. He taught me the history of the sport and I was riding road bikes by six and then racing at the velodrome a few years later.

All through school I wanted to be a bike racer, nothing else, but I was the only kid at school with shaved legs, rocking it in Lycra on the weekends, while my friends were playing rugby or Aussie rules.

People would call me an annoying cyclist and I copped a fair amount of shit but I couldn’t care less. Luckily in Perth there is an amazing ride scene. As kids Rob Power [Sunweb teammate] and I would do these bunch rides religiously, going full gas for 150km with adults every week.

Then aged 15 I actually went to France and watched Cadel Evans win in 2011. It was the first Tour I ever watched in person. I saw some mountain stages, rode in the mountains, raced in Belgium, it was so sick.

I remember the first mountain I ever rode was on that trip too, and it was the Col du Tourmalet. I love climbing and I couldn’t believe it, I could climb for over an hour! In Perth every climb is over in 10 minutes.

So me and these three other guys from Perth, we’d never hit a climb this big so we took the first 10 minutes full gas and then realised we still had 50 more to go. Man, I loved it instantly.