Jai Hindley has agonisingly missed out on his bid to become the first Australian cyclist to win the prestigious Giro d’Italia, finishing runner-up for the title by a mere 39 seconds after a thrilling final day time trial duel with his British friend Tao Geoghegan Hart.
- In the final time trial, Tao Geoghegan Hart was too quick for spirited Aussie Jai Hindley
- Hindley said the race has been “three weeks I will never forget”
- Geoghegan Hart was only thrust into the limelight and contention when teammate Geraint Thomas crashed out
In one of the closest finishes ever seen in the race, Hindley — a 24-year-old from Perth who had only been expected to be a domestique working for others — almost ended as only the second Australian ever to win a grand tour, following 2011 Tour de France winner Cadel Evans.
Hindley and Geoghegan Hart had started the final 21st stage on effectively level on time with the Australian, who was the last man to tackle the 15.7km time trial on Sunday in the leader’s famous pink jersey, calculated to be just 0.86 seconds ahead.
The West Australian did indeed give everything in a courageous ride as he powered through the streets of Milan yet it was quickly evident as the time checks came that Geoghegan Hart was just too strong in the discipline that pits riders against the clock.
The Briton had beaten Hindley 7-2 in their previous time trials and once again proved too accomplished when it mattered.
It all left Hindley, who could only finish 38th in the time trial, feeling downcast, as he effectively only held on to the pink jersey for less than 19 minutes.
“It’s pretty hard to take because I was so close,” he said.
“But when I look back, I think I’ll be super proud of what I’ve achieved.
“These are massive steps forward in my career. These are three weeks that I’ll never forget.”
Hindley said he was thrilled with all the messages of support he had received from fans throughout Australia, who stayed up through the night to watch him.
“I want to thank everyone who stayed up to watch me,” he said.
“It’s really unbelievable the support I’ve had.”
Hindley’s Team Sunweb teammate Wilco Kelderman, of the Netherlands, was third overall at the end of the three-week race, which appears to have finished just in time with rising numbers of coronavirus cases in Italy and new restrictions announced in the country.
Geoghegan Hart’s Ineos Grenadiers teammate Filippo Ganna won Sunday’s stage in a time of 17 minutes 16 seconds.
Like Hindley, Geoghegan Hart, who finished 13th on the stage, had expected only to play a support role for his Ineos team leader Geraint Thomas but when the Welshman crashed out, everything changed.
“It’s incredible,” he said.
“It was impossible for me to even think about winning the Giro when we started in Sicily.
“All of my career I have dreamt of being top 10 or top five in a race like this. During the ITT [individual time trial] my DS [sports director] told me I was faster than Jai Hindley.
“When my DS told me not to take risks in the final part, I understood I was close to the victory.”