Draped in the pink of the Maglia Rosa, a beaming Jai Hindley smile quickly turned into an emotional moment of realisation, as his historical achievement at the Giro d’Italia began to sink in.
The 26-year-old Bora-Hansgrohe climber rode his name into Australian cycling folklore in Verona to close out Stage 21 of the 2022 Giro, becoming the first Australian to win Italy’s prestigious three-week race and the second to win a grand tour, joining Cadel Evans and his 2011 Tour de France victory.
The final 17.4-kilometre time trial buried any demons that remained from a heartbreaking 2020 Giro defeat for Hindley, with the West Australian finishing 15th on Sunday to cap off a faultless performance that saw him claim victory by one minute 18 seconds over INEOS Grenadiers Ecuadorian Richard Carapaz.
💗 Giro d'Italia 2022 💗— Giro d'Italia (@giroditalia) May 29, 2022
🇬🇧 The last of the 3,445 km of the Giro d'Italia 2022.
The sweetest one of all. Bravo Jai!
🇮🇹 L'ultimo dei 3.445 km del Giro d'Italia 2022.
Il più dolce di tutti. Bravo Jai!#Giro pic.twitter.com/jwEpgMcLFj
“It’s a beautiful feeling really,” Hindley said moments after entering Arena di Verona.
“A lot of emotions out there today and yeah … you know I had that in the back of my mind, what happened in 2020, and I wasn’t going to let that happen again to be honest.
“To take the win is really incredible.
“I was getting updates and I also felt pretty good on the bike, I didn’t feel like I was fighting it.
“I was receiving the time checks and I knew it was a decent ride.
“In the end, I really wanted to take this descent pretty cautiously and then I just gave it everything to the line.
“It’s really incredible man - I’m really proud to be Australian and happy to take this one home.”
Hindley’s hometown cycling club in Perth, Midland Cycle Club, was in raptures overnight as one of their own became Australia’s newest hero.
For those in the west, the landmark moment of Hindley on the top step of the Giro evokes memories of what is a golden generation of West Australian talent that includes Ben O’Connor, Sam Welsford, Michael Storer, Robert Power and Jess Allen.
Inspired by the likes of Cameron and Travis Meyer as well as Luke Durbridge, Hindley’s generation is now becoming the newest role models for juniors right across the country to emulate.
Speaking to The Age and the Herald, AusCycling Executive General Manager of Commercial, Member and Club Development Agostino Giramondo believes Hindley’s success will have an immediate impact on the landscape of Australian cycling, just as Evans’ Tour de France triumph did 11 years ago.
“The impact of Jai’s win will be huge for Australian cycling,” Giramondo said.
“You can already see the impact it’s having on his club back in WA, the Midland Cycle Club.
“Today they published a beautiful video of some of their juniors wishing him the best.
“The win will inspire kids all over the country but it’s not just the young juniors, it’s the riders coming through the ranks in under-19s who will be inspired because Jai has been a member of national development teams and junior and under-23 world championship teams.
“It will inspire not only those currently racing bikes but those who don’t even know they love cycling yet.
“It’s discipline agnostic as well - a child riding a BMX seeing an Aussie winning a major event and making it on the news is inspired because a bike is a bike and there is a pathway for every discipline in Australia.
“We all need heroes, and a nation of young cyclists now has a new hero.”