VERONA, Italy ( Associated Press) — Jai Hindley on Sunday achieved what he came very close to achieving two years ago by sealing victory in the Giro d’Italia and becoming the first Australian rider to win the Grand Tour of Italy.
Hindley finished with a lead of one minute and 18 seconds over 2019 champion Richard Carapaz of Ecuador after the final individual time trial, which ended next to the Verona Arena, a Roman amphitheater.
Victory was all the sweeter for Hindley after he entered the final stage of the 2020 Giro in the pink jersey only to finish runner-up to Tao Geoghegan Hart. Hindley said that second place haunted him for months.
“I still remember what happened in 2020… This morning I was determined that it would never happen again,” Hindley said.
Carapaz finished seven seconds ahead of Hindley in the time trial, but the 26-year-old Australian had entered the final day with a 1:25 minute lead.
“I was getting updates and feeling pretty good on the bike,” added Hindley.
Hindley struggled last year with injury and illness, retiring midway through the 2021 Giro due to a saddle sore.
“Last year was very, very hard and I fought a lot to be back here,” he said. “But I didn’t know that I was going to fight for the victory.”
Limited by COVID-19 regulations, Hindley has not been back home in Perth, Australia, since before the pandemic.
“Two days ago I found out my parents were coming to the finish line,” Hindley said. “I hadn’t seen them since the beginning of 2020, so today was very special. At the end of the year I will return home and enjoy every minute of it.”
Nothing went wrong for the Bora-Hansgrohe rider in this year’s race. Hindley won stage nine, which ended with a tough climb to Blockhaus, gained a few seconds from Carapaz during the grueling stage 16, which passed the legendary Mortirolo pass, and then took the lead on the penultimate stage on Saturday, leaving behind his rivals in the fearsome ascent of the Marmolada.
In essence, Hindley was better than or equal to Carapaz in almost every stage of the climb.
Hindley’s prowess was already on display in 2020, when he won the “queen” stage of the Giro at the Stelvio pass.
Hindley has now joined 2011 Tour de France champion Cadel Evans as the only Australians to have won a Grand Tour.
Carapaz, the Ecuadorian who won Olympic gold last year and was celebrating his 29th birthday on Sunday, was the pre-race favorite.
Spaniard Mikel Landa finished third overall, trailing 3:24, and Vincenzo Nibali, the 37-year-old two-time Giro champion who plans to retire at the end of this season, finished fourth, trailing 9:02.
Hindley, wearing a pink and black streamlined helmet to match his pink leader’s jersey, just smiled and pumped his fist several times after crossing the finish line.
As for the rest of the year, Hindley said he would consider running the Vuelta a España and that he hopes to take part in the cycling world championships to be held in his country, in Wollongong, in September. It is likely that he will not ride the Tour de France.