Australia’s Jai Hindley enjoys shock reunion after winning Giro d’Italia

Jai Hindley had the sweetest of family reunions on Sunday, winning the Giro d’Italia in front of his parents after not having seen them since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Hindley became the first Australian to win the Italian Grand Tour by snatching the pink jersey on the penultimate stage before rolling into the final day time-trial in Verona to seal a memorable win.

The 26-year-old’s family celebrated in the city’s ancient Roman Arena when he lifted the trophy, capping a great victory for cyclist and country.

Before Sunday he hadn’t seen his family since after the Sun Tour way back in February 2020, after which he was in his home town of Perth “for less than 24 hours” before heading back to Europe.

“I didn’t know that was the last time I was going to be back home for a couple of years,” Hindley told reporters.

“Then a few day ago I found out that my parents were going to be coming to the finish and I was really blown away, to not see your parents for two and a half years is unbelievable.

“To have them at the finish in the Arena today was special. Really special. I think at the end of the year I’ll go home and savour every minute of it.”

Jai Hindley celebrates with his parents Gordon and Robyn. (Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Hindley and his girlfriend, Abby. (Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

Hindley claimed his win by holding off Richard Carapaz in Sunday’s time-trial, a skill which was once his weak point and which cost him victory at the 2020 Giro.

He said that he had worked on his technique with his team Bora Hansgrohe, and banished the memory of his painful last stage collapse in the time-trial two years ago when he conceded the Giro to Briton Tao Geoghegan Hart on the final day.

“I went to California, to this specialised headquarters, spent quite a bit of time in the wind tunnel trying to work on better positions on the new set up and I think it’s helped a lot,” he said.

Hindley said that he might take a stab at this year’s Vuelta a Espana, and is also eyeing a place in the world championships, which are to be held in NSW in September.

“I think it would be a great event and it’s not every day you get to do the worlds in your home country, especially when you’re form Oz. So yeah I’m super keen to be in that team,” he said.

“I think after today I’ll take it easy for a bit, sink some beers, park up and just really savour the moment.”

Jai Hindley celebrates on the podium. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

Hindley’s Giro d’Italia win was earned in the country which gave him his start in cycling.

Some 13,000 kilometres separate Hindley’s home town of Perth from Verona, where he made the jump to the highest ranks of cycling, but he has an affinity with the country.

Hindley settled in the Mediterranean nation when he decided to make a go of professional cycling.

He owes his passion for the sport to his father Gordon, who fittingly was in Verona’s ancient Roman Arena to watch his son lift the Giro trophy.

“I was six years old and I wanted to be a footballer. Then I saw the Tour de France on television and my life changed,” Hindley said in 2020, when he lost the Giro in agonising fashion on the final stage.

“From that moment on I didn’t want to be anything other than a professional cyclist.

“My idols were the great Australian riders, Robbie McEwen and Stuart O’Grady, Cadel Evans … But it’s not easy to leave your country to go to the other side of the world.”

Hindley did his damage in the mountains. (Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

Just 18 when he left Australia, Hindley settled in Pescara on Italy’s Adriatic coast with Umberto Di Giuseppe, who welcomed him into his home and let him run in his team.

“Jai is a very serious boy who has never given me a problem. He knew what he wanted to do,” recalled Di Giuseppe.

Hindley says that he is stubborn and he scoured the Italian circuit for under-23 races he could take part in.

After a season in the reserves of Australian team Mitchelton (now BikeExchange), he convinced Sunweb (now DSM) to take him on and was introduced to the WorldTour in 2018.

He claimed his first major professional victory on home turf two years later, winning the Sun Tour in Melbourne and then unknowingly saying goodbye to his parents for the last time until Sunday.

He couldn’t get back to Perth due to Covid-19 restrictions and only saw them at the final stage of this year’s Giro, the crowning moment of his career up to now.

Jai Hindley is Australia’s first Giro d’Italia winner. (Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

The year 2020 was the take off point of his career despite the pandemic, which squeezed the season into three months and cost him time with his family.

That October he won a Giro mountain stage then — just as this year — snatched the pink jersey in the penultimate stage, only to lose rather than win it in the climatic time-trial in Milan.

“I was devastated by it,” Hindley admitted Saturday night.

“After 2020 when I so close to win and it was brutal to lose on the last day, it took me a long time to get over that.

“Coming into the arena (today) knowing that I’d won the Giro was pretty special.” The next step for Hindley is to make a mark outside of Italy, his home away from home and where he earned the biggest victory of his career.

“The Giro has opened a lot of doors for me as a rider,” he said. “This race opened my mind on what I can do as a pro cyclist. I’ll save the moment for a long time.”

— with AFP