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Jai, the Rose from down-under

29/05/2022

Every time the Arena di Verona hosts the grand finale of the Giro d’Italia it is always a thrill. It is not often that a cyclist gets a whole stadium cheering and applauding him, let alone an amphitheatre that oozes history and prestige like the Verona landmark. The right to this ovation was earned by all the riders who completed the Giro d’Italia 2022, but real glory was claimed by Jai Hindley, the Maglia Rosa, Arnaud Démare, the Maglia Ciclamino, Koen Bouwman, the Maglia Azzurra, Juanpe Lopez, the Maglia Bianca, Bahrain Victorious, the best team, and… two legends at their last Giro d’Italia, Vincenzo Nibali and Alejandro Valverde.

The Trofeo Senza Fine, however, only went to one: Jai Hindley. The Bora-hansgrohe rider has made history: he is the first Australian ever to win the Giro d’Italia, the second to win a Grand Tour since Cadel Evans won the 2011 Tour de France.

He who, after losing the 2020 Giro at the last time trial to Tao Geoghegan Hart, feared he would never have another chance to win the Maglia Rosa, because the right train in a rider’s career does not necessarily pass twice. He who, after his 2nd place in that year’s Giro, had failed to perform at those levels again, being labelled by many as the classic one-hit wonder of a season as peculiar as the Covid one had been. He who, as a teenager, had to leave Australia to pursue his dream of becoming a professional cyclist. He who, precisely because of the pandemic, had not returned home and had not seen his family for more than two years.

It is fair to say that Italy was in this guy’s destiny, as in 2015, at the age of 19, he had packed his bags and moved to Abruzzo to race with Team Aran Cucine. He had spent a year there, immersed himself in Italian culture, even if he is ashamed to show off his Italian, trained on the Gran Sasso and began to make his mark.

Seven years later, on those very mountains, on the Blockhaus in particular, he placed the first brick of his triumphant Giro d’Italia, winning a stage that quickly propelled him back to 2020 levels. Afterwards it was a Corsa Rosa raced with his legs, but also with his head, a long tête-à-tête of nerves and short attacks with Richard Carapaz, culminating in the Marmolada show. Hindley put in a monstrous performance, one that, numbers in hand, tell us that we are talking about a formidable climber, one of the strongest in the world at the moment. He chased away the ghosts of 2020 to the sound of watts and rode the Verona ITT in the knowledge that he was very close to becoming a legend.

His victory came from afar, but today the 14,000 kilometres that separate him from his hometown of Perth have never been closer. Australia was tinged pink. Jai Hindley has won the Giro d’Italia.

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