Forget Barty and Ashes, ‘Australian of the year’ is Hindley! – McEwen lauds champion

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Forget Barty and Ashes, ‘Australian of the year’ is Hindley! – McEwen lauds champion

Forget Ashleigh Barty and the triumphant cricketers, Robbie McEwen has named Jai Hindley “Australian of the year” after his heroic victory at the Giro d’Italia.

Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) became the first Aussie to win the Giro on Sunday, ending the country’s 11-year wait for a Grand Tour winner and banishing memories of his traumatic final day in the 2020 edition.

He saw Britain’s Tao Geoghegan Hart wrestle the maglia rosa off his shoulders in the decisive time trial 19 months ago, but there was no repeat in 2022 as he comfortably held off former champion Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) to deliver a maiden Grand Tour win for himself and Bora.

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Hindley was 10 seconds behind Carapaz in the general classification through most of the early running as the Giro travelled from Hungary to the Italian mainland via Sicily. But he catapulted into contender status with a magnificent win atop Blockhaus before chiselling away at Carapaz’s lead by taking bonus seconds in sprints.

By the time the penultimate stage rolled around in the mountains on Saturday, just three seconds separated first from second. Then with barely 3km remaining on Stage 20, the GC battle finally came alive. With Bora team-mate Lennard Kamna setting a brutal pace in the Dolomites, Carapaz cracked and Hindley pounced. By the summit on the Marmolada, Hindley had a 1:25 advantage. This time, he was not going to be stopped.

It left McEwen full of praise for his compatriot as he revelled in his success on The Breakaway.

  • ‘I wasn’t going to let that happen again’ – Hindley fuelled by final-day anguish
  • What next for Giro winner Jai Hindley, Bora-Hansgrohe and Ineos Grenadiers?

“I would say Jai, mate, we are so incredibly proud of you and also what his team-mates did for him,” said McEwen.

“Nobody does it alone. Not just the team-mates on the road, the entire team around him. But Jai, you are Australian of the year!”

Hindley admits he had 2020 heartbreak in ‘back of my mind’

It was a bold – and slightly tongue-in-cheek – statement from McEwen, given Barty ended a 44-year drought for a home winner at the Australian Open and the women’s cricket team won the World Cup as well as the men’s crushing 4-0 victory over England in the Ashes.

McEwen continued: “What a moment for Jai Hindley, his family, friends, team-mates, everyone that’s had anything to do with him in his life getting him to this point. He’s just such a good advertisement for the sport.

“He’s a great guy and he’s just so humble as well. He didn’t ever assume it was all over and didn’t raise a hand in victory until he was well past the final finish line. It’s just so nice to see.”

Not only was it the first time an Australian had won the Giro in history, but it was also their first Grand Tour success since Cadel Evans won the Tour de France in 2011.

“I think this will give Australian cycling another boost. It took off through the 2000s and when Cadel Evans won the Tour de France, it went nuts. I think this will give it another boost again, 11 years later.

“I can imagine his home town in Perth painting the town pink!”

Hindley’s success was even more remarkable given he was effectively written off after a torrid 2021 season.

When the list of pre-race favourites were trotted out, his name was absent – or at the very least behind the likes of Carapaz, Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco) and Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates).

“I think everybody who’s followed the Giro not only this year, but if you followed it when Jai Hindley lost the Giro on the final stage to Tao Geoghegan Hart… this is the redemption he needed going into this time trial from the same position. Except he had 1:25 up his sleeve as opposed to no seconds up his sleeve,” said McEwen.

“It is just such a good story. I was so happy for him. And after not only losing the Giro nearly two years ago in 2020, but the season he had in between he was nowhere in 2021. He had no explanation for the terrible year.

“So to bounce back, come back to form and then come back and win the Giro. It is just a fairytale for the boy from Perth and we’re all really, really happy for him.”

Meanwhile, 2012 Tour de France champion and Eurosport expert Bradley Wiggins said Hindley produced a flawless race.

“Jai Hindley was incredible and he didn’t put a foot wrong the whole race,” said Wiggins from Verona.

“He bided his time he waited until yesterday and that big mountain day. And again today putting on another performance that was maybe unexpected – but we see him down there with his trophy now.

“What a great day for him and what a setting to do it.”

‘He didn’t put a foot wrong’ – Wiggins reacts to ‘incredible’ Hindley win

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Stream the Giro d’Italia live and on-demand on discovery+. You can also watch all the action live on eurosport.co.uk.

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