Tour of Fuzhou winner Jai Hindley was snapped up by Team Sunweb after finishing second in the Herald Sun Tour ahead of Chris Froome and Esteban Chaves in February, but he won't be racing on Australian roads in the early part of 2018 due to his recent, late-season commitments with Mitchelton-Scott in China.
The 21-year-old Hindley has enjoyed a busy 2017 season. In early January, he fought for a national title and a spot on the Australian national team at the Santos Tour Down Under, before riding strongly in Europe in spring and summer, and then winning a UCI 2.1 stage race in China in mid-November.
"I've had a pretty good first half of the season this year, I had decent results and I carried some good form," Hindley told Cyclingnews. "In the second half, I got a bit tired, maybe I overdid it a little bit in the training."
Hindley's "decent results" in Europe included the overall victory at the under-23 Terra Toscana stage race in April and third place (plus one stage win) at the amateur Giro d'Italia in June. He finished tenth in the Tour de l'Avenir one year after being fifth overall. "I got sick on the rest day," he explained. "I wasn't in my greatest condition, I guess. It was a bit disappointing but we were trying to help Lucas [Hamilton] go onto the podium and he did really well [fourth]."
National teams at the Tour de l'Avenir are difficult to manage because of the personal interests of young riders, all trying to turn professional, but the two potential leaders for Australia had already penned contracts by August, as Hamilton signed with Orica-Scott and Hindley with Sunweb.
"It was a relief to get the contract sealed early and not have to worry about trying to sort that stuff out late in the season," the Perth native said. "It was really nice. Sunweb saw the Sun Tour results and they contacted me after that.
"Sunweb has a really good development process. It's a good set up, well organized. In the long term, I think it'll be good for me to go to a different team [than Orica-Scott, Australia's only WorldTour team – ed.] It's too early for me to know my program for 2018 but I might target some stage races with them. This year's has been going so long with the Asian races, I probably won't be doing any of the Australian races early next year. I'll start later in the season."
Despite stepping up to WorldTour status in 2018, Hindley had no reservations about racing so late into the current campaign with Mitchelton-Scott, the feeder team for Orica-Scott.
"We need to try and get Mitchelton-Scott some exposure in Asia and I'm part of the team", Hindley said.
"The Piccolo Giro di Lombardia was the last European race I did [Hindley placed 11th on October 1] and I wasn't training that great after that. I had a week off and a week of training before I came to China. I wasn't in my best form in Hainan but it went OK in Fuzhou. I'm definitely a climber. The longer the hills are, the better I am."