Jai Hindley reckons he’ll “die for the jersey” as he aims to make history by becoming the first Australian to be adorned with the leader’s ‘maglia rosa’ at the end of the Giro d’Italia.
And the 26-year-old rider from Perth is being hailed as the champion elect already by Australian cycling great Robbie McEwen, who says he’s already had tears in his eyes and expects more when Hindley rides to glory in pink in the final Verona time trial on Sunday.
Bradley Wiggins, Britain’s first Tour de France champion, also believes the Giro triumph is effectively already in Hindley’s pocket as he holds a one minute 25 seconds lead over Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz after an “amazing” performance from the Aussie in Saturday’s 20th and penultimate stage.
“I don’t know if (the advantage) will be enough – but I’ll die for the jersey tomorrow!” promised Hindley, who declared something similar before the concluding time trial at the 2020 Giro, when he was also wearing the pink jersey going into the last stage.
On that occasion, he went on to lose it by just a heartbreaking 39 seconds to Briton Tao Geoghegan Hart, which is why former sprinting star McEwen, who won stages on the Giro, believes there’s no chance of the West Australian taking his eye off the ball in Sunday’s ‘race of truth’.
“I’m cheering and clapping, and a tear in the eye,” McEwen, who won 12 stages of the Giro, told Eurosport.
“But you can understand Jai Hindley not willing to smile too much because he went through the heartbreak two years ago of losing on the final day.
“But he went in with no lead, equal time, going into the time trial. Now with a minute 25, it would take an absolute disaster for him to lose the Giro, but he’s aware of that.”
Wiggins added: “What an amazing ride from Jai, an incredible ride, and I think it’s just won him the Giro on the Marmolada (the highest mountain in the Dolomites) SI think. What a day it’s turned out to be!”