It took until the final road stage of this year’s Giro, but at last there’s some breathing room at the top.
Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) moved into the race lead after dropping Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) on the brutal slopes of the day’s final climb, the Passo Fedaia. He finished stage 20 in seventh place 1-28 ahead of Carapaz who had started the day in pink, just a whisker ahead of Hindley. The Australian also gained time on his other closest rival in the GC, Mikel Landa (Bahrain - Victorious).
“I knew I had to try something,” Hindley said afterwards. “This stage was perfect in my opinion. It was a big day with lots of elevation and a really hard final climb with some super steep gradients. I knew it was going to be decisive.”
And it was. The lead between Carapaz and Hindley had remained a matter of seconds, in part , due to the lack of summit finishes and very steep gradients in the race. Attacks on the climbs had, up until this point, been few and far between and the three second time gap heading into stage 20 reflected the lack of GC action.
“We stayed patient and we really saved our matches for today,” Hindley continued. “And it was perfect. Lenny (Lennard Kämna ) was up the road in a breakaway and he couldn't have timed it better to drop back and give me a boost up the road.”
In what Kämna would describe after the stage as “tactics”, he dropped back from the day’s break to join his team leader on some of the Marmalada’s steepest slopes. With Carapaz now isolated at this late stage, the extra man made all the difference. Kamna pulled hard, with Hindley in tow, riding Carapaz off their wheel. The elastic had finally snapped.
“When I heard that Carapaz was dropped, I just went all out,” Hindley said. However, he acknowledged that he was surprised that he was able to take as much time as he did from the Ecuadorian.
“I wasn’t expecting to get that much,” he said. “I mean Carapaz is a world-class rider. He’s an Olympic champion. He’s a bloody good bike rider.”
But even great bike riders can have off days. Carapaz cut an uncomfortable figure as he rocked up the double-digit gradients, his lead gone and perhaps the hopes of winning his second Giro also disappearing with it.
“I wasn't sure how he was feeling but I knew I had to give it a good crack today,” Hindley said. “And that’s what I did and it paid off.”
“It’s really emotional to be back in the pink jersey,” he said. “It’s a dream come true to wear the jersey again.”
In something resembling déjà vu, he’ll again be donning the maglia rosa for the final stage time trial, just as he did in 2020. This time his lead is far more significant - he has 1-25 on Carapaz in the GC standings - and he’ll be hoping the cushion makes for a better result. In that previous edition he lost time and the title to Britain’s Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers).
When asked if his lead will be enough, he remained non-committal, perhaps not wanting to jinx his chances given what happened to him just two years ago.
“I don’t know, we’ll see how it goes,” he said. “It’s always hard to say how a time trial will go on the last day of a three week race. But I’ll die for the jersey tomorrow.”
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Luke Friend has worked as a writer, editor and copywriter for over twenty years. Across books, magazines and websites, he's covered a broad range of topics for a range of clients including Major League Baseball, the National Trust and the NHS. He has an MA in Professional Writing from Falmouth University and is a qualified bicycle mechanic. He fell in love with cycling at an early age, partly due to watching the Tour de France on TV. He's a passionate follower of bike racing to this day as well an avid road and gravel rider.
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