It’s official: Jai Hindley and Wilco Kelderman will be starting this year’s Giro d’Italia together with Emanuel Buchmann as two of the three GC contenders for Bora-Hansgrohe. And that’s despite the well-publicized controversy that erupted during and after a crunch stage of the 2020 Giro over the Australian and Dutchman's radically different views regarding team tactics.
In third week of the 2020 Giro d’Italia, Hindley and Kelderman were joint leaders at Team DSM. Kelderman was the designated Giro leader but Hindley was also well-placed overall. The team opted to give both riders a chance. Hindley managed to stick with Tao Geoghegan Hart on the Stelvio pass while Kelderman was dropped, turning the leadership strategy upside down for the final stages to Milan. Hindley eventually lost the maglia rosa to the Ineos Grenadiers rider in the final time tria.
Hindley's strategy did not go down well with Kelderman at the time, to say the least. Fast forward two years, and at the countdown to the 2022 Giro, where both will once again be teammates, both Bora-Hansgrohe riders insisted that bygones were bygones. They would now work as a unit in their respective GC bids this May.
This is all part of Bora-Hansgrohe’s master plan for upping their GC game in 2022 and the 2022 Giro d’Italia is expected to be where the German squad first takes the GC bull by the horns for real.
Just whether the two contenders can repeat their 2020 podium success or if Buchmann can benefit from a slightly less high-profile role than his two teammates, only time and the road will tell.
The game plan is in place, at the least.
“For sure we’ve talked about it, it was what happened,” Kelderman said directly to reporters on Thursday afternoon, less than 24 hours before the Giro start.
“If something similar should happen, then for sure we should do it differently. We both got on the podium but I think we could have won the race that year.”
Back in the Giro after a year where he claimed fifth in the Tour de France, Kelderman argued that, “It’s important to make sure it [a controversy like in the 2020 race] doesn’t happen any more. Jai is also a super-good rider, so if at some point we have to choose one option [for GC] we’ll go for that.”
Hindley echoed his opinion by saying that he had always had a good relationship with Kelderman, and that they had sat down and talked through what had happened in 2020.
“But it’s in the past, you can’t change it. So we’re looking forwards, looking forward to this year’s race and riding together again.”
Controversies apart, the two riders' presence at the Giro press conference together was testament to the fact that following Peter Sagan’s departure last winter, Bora-Hansgrohe have been quietly building themselves a GC army.
Kelderman’s description on Thursday of a three-man attack on the Giro overall classification with Buchmann as the third prong of the trident certainly fit that particular bill.
Kelderman was positioned sixth overall last year until he was caught up in a huge third-week crash, when the peloton raced at ultra-high speeds across a windswept lagoon, and he was forced to abandon.
“Emu’ [Buchmann] is in the same line as us, he’s also for GC, nobody is higher than anybody else,” Kelderman said.
“Then Lenny [Lennard Kamna] is more for stage wins than another classification like the King of the Mountains. He could take quite a few.”
Neither Kelderman nor Hindley are in an ideal position as they go into the Giro, with both of them suffering setbacks at Liège-Bastogne-Liège; Kelderman coming off badly in a crash, Hindley the same but courtesy of a 24-hour virus.
“For sure it’s not ideal, my knee is still a bit bruised,” Kelderman said on Thursday. “Hopefully I’ll be all right in the Giro.”
With Liège the latest incident of a difficult season to date, Kelderman recognised that “for sure the expectations are not as high as they could be and my self-confidence is not there if there aren’t any results so far. So I just want to see how it goes. My preparation at altitude was good even though I could not show it so far. Maybe here.”
Hindley on the other hand has had a solid start to the year, with a fifth overall in Tirreno-Adriatico restoring a great deal of his confidence after a 2021 season plagued with illnesses that left him on the back foot throughout and totally out of the Giro running. Only that virus in Liège has left him a little more in the dark regarding his current state of form.
“It was actually pretty massive for me in Tirreno,” Hindley said. “Sure it was only fifth, but after 2021, it’s nice to be back at the top end of a race.
“This year the season’s started slow, getting better and better, until I got that virus at Liège. That was not ideal, but I’ve recovered pretty well and quickly.
“I just want to get the best result, I don’t know exactly how my body will react after the illness. I’ll take it all with a pinch of salt and see how it goes.”
Probably the biggest takeaway of the Bora-Hansgrohe press conference was the evident good feeling between at least two of the German squad’s three leaders.
Afterwards, Kelderman even asked the journalists present to sing Hindley a round of 'Happy Birthday', as on Thursday the Australian turned 26.
As for expectations in the Giro, Kelderman argued that the squad would like to see one of their riders “on the podium or winning. If you ride a race with GC riders then it’s clear what you want, no?
“What can you see in the team is more build-up for GC, more climbers, two helpers for the flat.... but for the future they want to build even more for the Grand Tours, too, to see if they can get on the podium or even win.”
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The Independent, The Guardian, ProCycling, The Express and Reuters.
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