Jai Hindley of Bora-Hansgrohe is poised to make history tomorrow as the first ever Australian winner of the Giro d’Italia.
The 26 year old from Perth began today’s final road stage in the Dolomites just 3 seconds down on the winner of the race three years ago, Richard Carapaz of Ineos Grenadiers.
The pair have been no more than 5 seconds apart from each other since Hindley won on the Blockhaus the weekend before last.
They have marked each other in the mountains of northern Italy over the past week, although until this evening it has always been the Ecuadorian who has taken to the podium in the maglia rosa of race leader at the end of the stage.
But with 3.5km remaining of today’s final climb on a day that saw three tough climbs in the Dolomites including the highest point of this year’s race, the Passo Pordoi, the stalemate finally ended as the battle for the overall began in earnest.
Hindley, who had looked fresher throughout the day, had the advantage of a team-mate ahead in the break, Lennard Kamna, who dropped back to help him briefly.
Carapaz, isolated from team mates and missing his key super-domestique Richie Porte, who abandoned yesterday through illness, was outnumbered, and when Hindley attacked within the final 3km had no response.
The pair have gone head to head in individual time trials four times in the past, Carapaz proving quicker each time.
With the 105th edition of the race concluding in Verona tomorrow with a stage against the clock, had the Ineos Grenadiers rider kept Hindley within 30 or 40 seconds, he may have had a chance of winning the race for the second time in four years.
But by shipping 1 minute 28 seconds to the Australian today, barring a crash or a disastrous mechanical, it is the Bora Hansgrohe rider who, as the last man out, will ride into Verona’s famous Roman arena in pink tomorrow to claim the Giro d’Italia’s Trofeo Senza Fine.
It won’t be the first time Hindley has started the Italian Grand Tour in the overall lead.
Less than two years ago, in the Covid-delayed 2020 edition of the race, he started the final individual time trial in Milan on level time with Tao Geoghegan Hart of Ineos Grenadiers, but in the maglia rosa on countback.
That day, he ceded 39 seconds to the Londoner, and finished the race second overall.
Barring disaster tomorrow, it’s difficult to see Carapaz clawing back his 1 minute 25 second deficit.
After today’s stage – won through a fine solo attack ahead of the Passo Pordoi by Alessandro Covi of UAE Team Emirates – the likelihood is that Hindley will put his heartache of two years ago behind him, and join Cadel Evans, winner of the 2011 Tour de France, as an Australian winner of a Grand Tour.
“As a team we rode pretty smart race,” Hindley said after today’s stage. “We tried to take our opportunities without losing too much energy when it wasn’t necessary.
“Everything was pretty calculated. I knew that if I wanted to do something in the race, it had to be today. I gave it everything.
“When I heard that Carapaz was struggling a bit, I needed to go full gas and I did.
“It’s been a bumpy road to get back here after a tough season last year,” he continued. “I didn’t know if I could get the maglia rosa again after the tough season I had last year with sicknesses and crashes but now I have it and I’ll die on the road for keeping it tomorrow.”
I wish JSO would JFO. ...
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