Jai Hindley becomes first Australian to win the Giro d’Italia

Australia's Jai Hindley kisses the trophy at the end of the 21st stage against the clock race of the Giro D'Italia, in Verona, Italy, Sunday, May 29, 2022. (Fabio Ferrari/LaPresse via AP)

VERONA, Italy (AP) — Jai Hindley accomplished what he so narrowly missed out on two years ago by sealing overall victory in the Giro d’Italia on Sunday — becoming the first Australian rider to win Italy’s Grand Tour.

Hindley finished 1 minute, 18 seconds ahead of 2019 champion Richard Carapaz following the concluding individual time trial, which finished next to Verona’s Arena, a Roman amphitheater.

The victory was all the more sweet for Hindley after he entered the final stage of the 2020 Giro wearing the pink jersey only to finish runner-up to Tao Geoghegan Hart. Hindley said that second-place finish haunted him for months afterward.

“I had in the back of my mind what happened in 2020 and I wasn’t going to let that happen again,” Hindley said.

Carapaz finished seven seconds ahead of Hindley in the time trial but Hindley had entered the final day with an advantage of 1:25.

“I was getting updates and I felt pretty good on the bike,” Hindley said.

Hindley struggled last year with injury and sickness and withdrew midway through the 2021 Giro due to a saddle sore.

“Last year was really, really hard and I really fought hard to be back here,” Hindley said. “But I didn’t know I would be fighting for the win.”

Limited because of COVID-19 regulations, Hindley hasn’t gone home to Australia since before the pandemic.

“I haven’t seen my parents for 2 1/2 years,” he said. “That’s also what made last year so hard.”

Nothing went wrong for the Bora-Hansgrohe rider in this year’s race. Hindley won Stage 9 that finished with a punishing climb to Blockhaus, he gained a few seconds on Carapaz during the grueling 16th stage that went over the legendary Mortirolo pass, then he stormed into the lead in the penultimate stage on Saturday by dropping his overall rivals on the fearsome Marmolada climb.

In essence, Hindley was better or evenly matched with Carapaz on nearly all of the climbing stages.

Hindley’s climbing prowess was already evident in 2020 when he won the Giro’s “queen” stage over the Stelvio pass.

Now, the 26-year-old Hindley has joined Cadel Evans, the 2011 Tour de France champion, as the only Australians to win a Grand Tour.

Carapaz, the Ecuadorian who won Olympic gold last year and was celebrating his 29th birthday Sunday, was the pre-race favorite.

Spanish rider Mikel Landa finished third overall, 3:24 behind, and Vincenzo Nibali, the 37-year-old two-time Giro champion who plans to retire at the end of this season, finished fourth, 9:02 behind.

Hindley, wearing an aerodynamic pink-and-black helmet to go with his pink leader’s jersey, simply smiled and pumped his fist a few times after crossing the finish line.

Italian rider Matteo Sobrero won the 17.4-kilometre (11-mile) time trial, which followed a technical route that included a fourth-category climb and an ensuing descent, in 22 minutes, 24.54 seconds.

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