The reigning Giro d’Italia champion, Jai Hindley, will be in action in Adelaide again this January when he will line up at the Tour Down Under with his Bora-Hansgrohe team for the first WorldTour race of the 2023 season.
– By Rob Arnold
It has been a busy time for Jai Hindley since he became the second Australian cyclist to win a Grand Tour. Amongst his many commitments, which have recently included functions celebrating his victory in the Giro d’Italia last May, he also has to find the time to do his ‘day job’ – ie. ride his bike.
And it won’t be long before he tests his race legs again. The 26-year-old has been here, there and everywhere since his whirlwind trip back to Australia in September for the world championships.
Today, when it was confirmed that he would be part of the WorldTour’s return to Australia when the revitalised Tour Down Under is staged again for the first time since January 2020, Hindley was on the bike. He had a five-hour training ride to finish… and then a few more media commitments. This is part of life for a Grand Tour champion, and Jai is managing it all in his stride.
He recently had an audience with the premier of Western Australia, Mark McGowan, who gushed about the cyclist’s achievements and the inspiration Hindley offers for everyone who rides, or those that simply like to watch. And soon he will be competing again in Australia.
Hindley usually appears composed and calm and the extra stress that comes with being a man in demand hasn’t changed his ways. He has had some challenges, but each is brushed off with the special no-fuss attitude that is Jai’s style.
He contracted COVID in the weeks leading up to his visit to Wollongong but recovered in time to be part of the road race on the final day of the worlds, in which his team-mate from the national selection, Michael Matthews, scored a bronze medal.
After his appearance in #Wollongong2022 there was a quick road trip to the Hunter Valley in NSW with his parents to catch up with other family members briefly before jetting back to Italy in time for the presentation of the route for next year’s Giro d’Italia (6-28 May 2023).
He duly admitted that he was considering his options for the 2023 season, hinting that there was a chance he’d be back in Italy to defend his Giro crown. For a climber like Hindley, next year’s route – featuring three time trials (stages one, nine and 20, at 18.4km, 33.6km and 18.6km, respectively) – isn’t a great itinerary.
He likes to race in the mountains and the longer and steeper the road, the better it is for his chance of success. We saw that in May, when he took the maglia rosa on the penultimate day with panache, climbing into the leader’s jersey with enough of a time buffer to know he’d essentially won the title with one stage still to go.
The good news for next year is that the route for the Tour de France (1-23 July 2023) has just one time trial (a tough one over 22km for stage 16) and plenty of mountains.
In other words, the schedule mapped out by Hindley and his trade team, Bora-Hansgrohe, is one that is likely to see him make his TDF debut next July.
Before that, however, there will be plenty of other races… and today it was confirmed that his 2023 season will indeed begin in Australia when he returns to the Tour Down Under – a race that has been in hibernation because of the pandemic.
The TDU returns as the WorldTour opener next January when the Festival of Cycling will again be a feature of summer in South Australia (13-22 January 2023).
The festivities begin on the Friday with the team presentations for both WorldTour races – ie. men and women – and then the traditional criterium on the opening day (Saturday 14 January).
The women’s race then becomes the focus with the three-day WorldTour event boasting stage finishes in Aldinga (Sunday 15 January), Uraidla (16 January) and Campbelltown (17 January).
Hindley and the rest of the men’s peloton start the stage race on Tuesday 18 January… and for a first time this year, the TDU will feature a time trial.
The TT is short at 5.5km – so don’t expect huge time differences – and it’ll be sweet with a great route mapped out by race director Stuart O’Grady that goes along the Torrens River and finishes at in Adelaide’s CBD.
Hindley: a star attraction
The champion of the Giro d’Italia won’t be too concerned about the 5.5km test on the opening day, rather he will be eyeing off the prospect of a new finale and the uphill showdown that is to come on Sunday 22 January when Mount Lofty will be the site of the finish for stage five.
The uphill finish of the TDU that we’ve come to know and love has been updated by O’Grady for the return of the WorldTour to Australian soil after the forced hiatus because of the pandemic.
Hindley’s presence in the TDU peloton of 2023 was confirmed by an official release earlier today and we’ll soon discover who else will be racing in Australia next January. For O’Grady, it’s a huge coup to have Hindley in the starting line-up and he doesn’t expect that it’ll be treated as a training race.
The Western Australian has priorities later in the season but expect him to be in good form come January.
“Jai is an incredible Australian talent,” says O’Grady in the release, “and we are excited that he will start his 2023 season here in Adelaide.”
His star isn’t only expected to shine on the road to Mount Lofty on the final Sunday and O’Grady predicts that Hindley will be one of the riders in contention for the win of stage three which finishes in Campelltown.
When the terrain is steep and challenging, Jai will surely be a rider to watch and O’Grady explained that stage three has “three tricky climbs through the Adelaide Hills”, so spectators should get ready for some fireworks on the Friday stage.
“The Santos Tour Down Under has a history of attracting some of the best cyclists in the world,” says O’Grady. “Fans love coming to Adelaide to see our world-class Australian riders taking on the best.”
Hindley is certainly a fine example of a world-class Australian rider. He hasn’t raced in South Australia since the last of the WorldTour editions of the TDU in 2020 when he was still part of Team Sunweb and was yet to lead a Grand Tour. He finished 18th in South Australia in January of 2020 and, later that season, wore the leader’s jersey at the Giro on the penultimate day, eventually finishing in second place overall behind Tao Geoghegan Hart.
We wait to see who else will be part of the Bora-Hansgrohe team for the TDU but the line-up announcements have begun in fine style: an Australian cycling star, a Grand Tour champion, a rider fans really warm to, and a racer who loves to perform.
Will you be in South Australia for the return of the WorldTour? Jai Hindley will be. And it will be a great chance to see if he can beat some of the world’s best in the return of the TDU.
– By Rob Arnold