Perth road cyclist Jai Hindley has won the Sir Hubert Opperman Trophy for the Santini AusCycling Cyclist of the Year.
Hindley accepted the award on Wednesday during AusCycling's virtual awards ceremony.
Having started racing as a six-year-old with Midland Cycle Club, Hindley now joins the likes of Cadel Evans, Robbie McEwen and Anna Meares on the Oppy Medal honour roll.
“It’s a massive honour and a huge privilege to be amongst those names,” Hindley said.
“Those are some class people who have achieved great things in the cycling realm, so, it’s really special.
“As a six-year-old you have a lot of big dreams and aspirations, and it’s been a hell of a journey, that’s for sure.”
In May, the 26-year-old became the first Australian to win the Giro d’Italia, creating a landmark moment in Australian sporting history.
In doing so, Hindley joined Cadel Evans in the exclusive pantheon of Australians who have won one of cycling’s three-week-long Grand Tours.
“I still can’t believe it, actually. To have my name next to Cadel’s, to be the only grand tour winners from Australia, it’s a really crazy feeling,” Hindley said.
“He’s the best cyclist to have come out of Australia, a class rider, and to have my name next to his in some form is a real honour.”
En route to securing the prized maglia rosa, the West Australian climber also won stage 9 on the Blockhaus climb.
Hindley’s win was the crowning glory in a remarkably consistent season.
Riding for professional team Bora-Hansgrohe, in September he placed 10th overall at the Vuelta a España, another of cycling’s Grand Tours.
He also secured a top-five finish at Tirreno-Adriatico and seventh overall at the Vuelta a Burgos, before closing out his remarkable year at the UCI Road World Championships in Wollongong, where he helped Australian teammate Michael Matthews win the bronze medal.
“To my team, Bora-Hansgrohe, and all my teammates and the staff who work for the team. They do an exceptional job all year round,” Hindley said.
“And all my friends and family that support me, all the Australian fans who’ve stayed up late watching the Giro or watching other races. Supporting not just me, but other Aussie cyclists, we really appreciate that.
“I think the main people to thank would be my parents and my girlfriend. When I had a terrible season in 2021, these were the people who were in my corner the whole time. They have supported me for years and years, and given me so much.
“Without those people, nothing would be possible for me.”
The new Oppy medallist pipped a cross-discipline quartet for the top honour.
Cross-country mountain biker Rebecca McConnell, track sprinter Matthew Richardson, triple Commonwealth Games gold medallist Georgia Baker, and triple world champion para-cyclist Emily Petricola were also named as finalists.
Marne Fechner, Chief Executive Officer of AusCycling, said, “Congratulations to all the nominees, finalists and winners of the AusCycling Cyclist of the Year Awards.
“Throughout 2022, Australia’s cyclists and riders performed with outstanding success in international and national competition.
“Achievements such as Rebecca McConnell’s hat-trick of World Cup wins; Matthew Richardson’s rise to the top; and Emily Petricola’s and Georgia Baker’s accomplishments on track and road left us awestruck, inspired and proud to be Australian.
“Jai’s win at the Giro d’Italia was not just a groundbreaking moment for Australian cycling; it was an historic moment in Australian sport.
“He is a deserving winner of the Santini AusCycling Cyclist of the Year.”
The Sir Hubert Opperman Trophy has been presented to the cyclist of the year since 1958. The trophy, and the Oppy Medal, are awarded by AusCycling to the best all-round performing rider who also displays a high level of sportsmanship and is an ambassador for the sport.
Hindley is the first West Australian to win the award since Cameron Meyer received the honour in 2010.
In all, 37 awards were presented during the 2022 AusCycling Cyclist of the Year Awards, brought to you by Comwire IT. This was the first year that discipline-specific awards were presented in the Masters and Junior categories.
Santini AusCycling Cyclist of the Year
Queensland Academy of Sport Women’s BMX Freestyle Rider of the Year
Queensland Academy of Sport Men’s BMX Freestyle Rider of the Year
HutSix Women’s BMX Racing Rider of the Year
HutSix Men’s BMX Racing Rider of the Year
Zwift Women’s Esports Cyclist of the Year
Zwift Men’s Esports Cyclist of the Year
Shimano Women’s Mountain Bike Rider of the Year
Shimano Men’s Mountain Bike Rider of the Year
KASK Women’s Road Para-cyclist of the Year
KASK Men’s Road Para-cyclist of the Year
Argon 18 Women’s Track Para-cyclist of the Year
Argon 18 Men’s Track Para-cyclist of the Year
Federation University Women’s Road Cyclist of the Year
Federation University Men’s Road Cyclist of the Year
Vittoria Women’s Track Cyclist of the Year
Vittoria Men’s Track Cyclist of the Year
Men’s Team Sprint: Leigh Hoffman, Matthew Richardson, Matthew Glaetzer, Thomas Cornish
Shimano Women’s Cyclo-cross Cyclist of the Year
Shimano Men’s Cyclo-cross Cyclist of the Year
Shimano Women’s Gravel Cyclist of the Year
Shimano Men’s Gravel Cyclist of the Year
Feature photo: Getty Sport