Jai Hindley, dressed in a yellow race suit with a Bora-Hansgrohe jacket over the top, rolled calmly through a swarm of punters on bikes, around the corner of his Bora-Hansgrohe team bus and calmly clicked out. The buzz of the mechanic’s drill cut through the air; back wheel off, bike onto the trainer. A stray German microphone on a stick strayed into Hindley’s orbit. ”Just give me a moment,” he said with a smile, hopping on his bike to spin out the lactic acid.
Hindley’s second day in the Pyrenees was not like the first. One: he was defending, rather than attacking. Two: it’s hard to surprise anybody when you’re dressed entirely in yellow. So when the combined might of Jumbo-Visma massed at the front on the Tourmalet, Hindley’s job was a simple one: stay with Jonas Vingegaard and Tadej Pogačar as long as possible. Today, that saw some distance opened; over the top of the climb he was in a select chasing group behind Pogačar and Vingegaard, who’d already split themselves off in pursuit of a dwindling breakaway group. “I just tried to hang on as long as I could,” Hindley explained.
Down the Tourmalet, through the valley, up the climb to Cauterets-Cambasque. The yellow jersey kept chasing, trying to limit his losses on a stage that had seen the race lead slip off his shoulders. The fireworks were up the road: Wout van Aert’s monstrous turn for Vingegaard after a day in front, Pogačar’s attack, and Vingegaard’s first sign of weakness. A kind of a game of Pong, lobbing blows back and forth across the net. Behind them, a quiet Australian riding his own race.
This morning in Tarbes, Hindley’s friend Zac Williams – a professional photographer here covering the race – pointed out Hindley’s parents in the fenced-off teams area, there to see their son wearing sport’s most coveted prize. “It’s a dream for us all,” his mother Robyn told Escape Collective. “He’s never really wavered from a love of cycling … had a passion for it from a very early age, and from that maintained a passion for a very long time. And now here he is.”
Four hours of hard racing later, Hindley warmed down and then turned to the waiting media with a smile. “It was super cool,” he said of his day. “It’s a childhood dream fulfilled – to win a stage of the Tour, to be able to do that and take the yellow jersey was …” His cheeks puff out. Whew.
Is there a good race ahead for the podium, Jai? “Yeah, a painful one,” he said, with a wry smile. More experience in the bank for the young Giro d’Italia champion who’s kept close to his roots. Just before heading into the bus he makes a point when talking to Australia’s SBS TV to thank the fans on the road, smiling when discussing all the Australian flags he’s seen on the side of the road.
Today, they saw an Australian in yellow for the first time since 2015, and saw him lose grasp on it – he now sits 1:34 back in third. There’s not so much of a hint of disappointment in that in the Hindley camp, or indeed in Bora-Hansgrohe. “To win the race? Two guys are better. They’re in a different league,” said team manager Ralph Denk at the bus after the stage, leaning reflectively against the door as Hindley rode back down the climb. “[Hindley’s] still young, and I think we know what we can improve in the next years with him. Maybe one day we can come back to win the Tour.”
Earlier that day, I’d asked Robyn Hindley how she saw his ambitions for the rest of the race playing out. “For me as his mum? My goal was always for him to get here to the start line,” she said, with smiling eyes. “For him to do anything beyond that is just a bonus.”
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