Jai Hindley may be the only rider to ever have won a Grand Tour for Bora-Hansgrohe but the Australian Giro d'Italia victor isn't for a second pulling rank in a team that includes three potential overall contenders at the Vuelta a España.
Instead the 26-year-old is embracing the wait and see approach to whether he will be fighting for the overall at one of the biggest races on the calendar again this year or supporting one of his teammates – Wilco Kelderman or Sergio Higuita – in their chase for red.
“I think it will probably play out similar to the Giro. We have come here with three good guys for the GC and we will more or less let the road decide," said Hindley at a pre-Vuelta a España team media conference.
"No one in the team has a crazy ego or something like that. I know if I lose time in the first week then for sure I am going to do the best I can to help whoever we do still have on GC, and vice versa. I know the guys will support me if that's the case and I think when it is like that you can’t ask for much more.”
The most experienced of the GC trio is 31-year-old Kelderman, who has ridden the Vuelta a España four times and delivered consistently high overall results, starting with a 14th on his first appearance in 2014 and then never straying from the top ten, with a best GC result of fourth in 2017. Higuita is racing his first Grand Tour of the year and making his second appearance at the Spanish Grand Tour after debuting with 14th in 2019. The Colombian won the Volta a Catalunya in March, then came second overall at the Tour de Suisse in June.
Hindley, like Higuita, will be lining up for just a second time at the Vuelta and is returning from a long race break following his Giro victory with altitude training and a Spanish racing block finishing with Vuelta a Burgos in the meantime to get him ready to take on his second three-week race of the season.
"I’ve never done two Grand Tours in one year so I’m not sure how I will go," said Hindley, who last raced the Vuelta in 2018. "I try to do everything right, like having the time off after the Giro, putting the feet up a bit and slowly building it back up again and doing an altitude camp before this. I’m a bit nervous because I don’t know how I’ll go, especially in that last week, but I am really excited for it"
Hindley knows all too well that one top Grand Tour performance is no guarantee another will follow, having chased up his breakthrough second place at the 2019 Giro d'Italia with an abandon the next year, before securing the maglia rosa in 2022 with his new team, Bora-Hansgrohe. It was a victory the Western Australian said took the pressure off in some ways, but also added to it as now there was an expectation he would be able to back up that performance. "I am up for the challenge," he said.
Does that mean he thinks he can win a second Grand Tour this year?
"It would be pretty nice," said Hindley, before adding: "I’m not really thinking of winning the tour, I’m just really focussed on trying to do the best result possible with the Vuelta and it would be pretty special if the team won here, so hopefully we can do that. But it's going to be a long hard three weeks so we will see what happens.”
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Simone joined the team as Production Editor based in Australia at the start of the 2021 season, having previously worked as Australian Editor at Ella CyclingTips and as a correspondent for Reuters and Bloomberg.