'It will be with the full works in support for Roglič': Jai Hindley heads Tour de France with a new role and an ‘open mind’

The Australian is unlikely to reprise his role as Bora-Hansgrohe's Tour leader this year, but is aiming to take his chances when they come throughout the season

Jai Hindley is at a hotel in a lava field atop a volcano and is cooked. 

The 2022 Giro d’Italia champion is on an altitude training camp in Tenerife alongside an elite group of Bora-Hansgrohe teammates including new signing Primož Roglič, whose heralded arrival from Jumbo-Visma has bolstered and altered the squad. 

“He’s a good dude, he’s easy to work with,” Hindley told Rouleur in a February phone interview from Tenerife. 

“It’s been a really enjoyable camp, everyone is professional, but it’s relaxed at the same time. Good talk at the dinner table and on the bike, so you can’t really complain about it.”

Hindley was a team leader at the Tour de France last season where he won a stage and wore the yellow jersey before illness and then painful injuries stemming from a high-speed crash turned his fight for the podium into a fight to finish the race. The Australian climber is loath to a ‘DNF’ appearing next to his name on any results sheet. 

Hindley isn’t as cooked as he was when he rode into Paris for the very first time, placing seventh overall on Tour debut. 

“To finish the Tour is an achievement. To roll into Paris, even if you feel like an 80-year-old man and your back is in pieces, like, trust me, those cobbles are not kind,” Hindley laughed, “I’ll never forget it.” 

Read more: Paris-Nice 2024: Will Primož Roglič make a winning start to his Bora-Hansgrohe career?

The race made a strong impression on the 27-year-old, who was spotted after it was all run and done, freewheeling down the cobblestoned Champs Élysées, back to the teams’ paddock, with a sign almost the size of his lithe frame tucked under one arm. It read: Laruns. Laruns was the place where Hindley won stage five, catching Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) and Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) off-guard with the same low-key confidence, poise and fight that scored him the maglia rosa. 

“Funny story [how] I actually got that sign in the end. It went to the service course and then I ended up getting it. So, I’ve got it at home, which is pretty sick,” he said. 

“There was a guy from the organisation who said, ‘Oh man we’ve got this if you want it, super sick, from the stage that you won in Laruns.’ And I was like, ‘Oh yeah that sounds cool.’ It’s not easy but he got it to me.” 

Jai Hindley yellow jersey Tour de France

For many, a stage win and stint leading the biggest bike race in the world would be a successful campaign, a successful season even. Hell, if buy into the folklore of the Tour it makes your career. But for Hindley it was not. 

There was no after-party following the event outside of formal team engagements. 

“I was only prepared for 21 stages. I wasn’t ready for that 22nd stage,” he quipped. “My missus took me back to the hotel and tucked me up in bed. I was done.” 

The race was Hindley’s sole and exclusive focus last season and it’s evident by his own, unforgiving self-assessment that he didn’t go there for seventh. 

“It wasn’t really the best season, to be honest. The Tour had some good moments and then overall was not really the best but not too bad either considering everything, but then after that, I mean, I really was in pieces for a couple of weeks. I don’t think I’ve ever been that tired before. Mentally, physically, I was pretty smashed,” Hindley said. 

“I’m my own hardest critic. You can never compare yourself to another person but when I look at, for example, the speed the first two guys [Vingegaard and Pogacar] were going up the climbs, it was wild,” he continued. 

“Those two are phenomenal. They’re quite special riders. I’ve never seen guys climb that fast with my own two eyes in the flesh. It was crazy.

“More or less, everyone else in the race was fighting for the podium, and whether that would have been realistic to go for the podium in the end you can never say, but I feel like I was in a pretty good position to be competitive for it.” 

Had it not been for the arrival of Roglič, Hindley may this season have had the opportunity to consolidate what he learned from his debut and have another crack at the podium.

He is out of contract at the end of this year and has been the subject of trade talk in media circles for months.

However, Roglič’s move to the team, publicised in October, seemingly came with an assurance of Tour leadership that apparently no existing rider at Bora-Hansgrohe contested. 

“They sort of asked me what I wanted to do,” Hindley said. “The Giro is probably my favourite race, but I also did the Tour for the first time last year and really loved it at times. 

“Once you do it you can see why guys always want to go back every year. It’s the pinnacle of the sport and the biggest race there is. 

“When we go there it will be with the full works in support for Roglič, which is, I mean, I understand it. I think he’s also a pretty phenomenal rider, so it makes sense. 

“It is what it is. Of course, I’d love to go to the Tour and ride for my own GC but in the end, you have to be the best to compete for the Tour. I also wasn’t really at that mark last year, even before all the shit that happened.

“To change roles, it is what it is. For the first part of my career, I also was riding as a domestique. It’s not anything new to me.” 

Hindley opened his 2024 campaign at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana last month, placing fifth behind title winner Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates), Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain Victorious) and teammate Aleksandr Vlasov, before heading to altitude. There he joined Roglič, Vlasov and some of Bora-Hansgrohe’s other key climbers in Frederik Wandahl, Lennard Kämna and Giovanni Aleotti. 

“I’ll probably race quite a bit with a lot of these guys,” Hindley said. “Maybe with some here and some there. I don’t think the guys here will be in the same team at races but bits and pieces.” 

One of Hindley’s biggest takeaways from the Tour last year was the one-eyed emphasis placed on it in the lead-up, which he is looking to balance out this season. 

His race schedule will be different. He started later in Europe, as opposed to Australia in January, and will next line up at Tirreno-Adriatico. Then there is GP Miguel Indurain, Basque Country, Amstel Gold Race, Tour de Romandie, the Critérium du Dauphiné and two more stints at altitude on the agenda. 

“To put all that mental energy into one event, and you’re only looking at that and if it doesn’t go to plan, or how you want it exactly, then it’s pretty grim for morale,” he reflected. 

“I don’t regret doing it that way and I think me personally I can take a lot out from that and move forward with that and use that for this year. 

“I think to do it better in a different way this year is also important. So not just having this one monster goal of the year and then that’s it, you don’t give a shit about anything else. I think this year it’s really important to target more races, be in better form throughout the season and really come up high and try and stay at that higher peak, then also be good for the Tour.

Jai Hindley Tour de France

“Getting a good block of training in at altitude with the guys and having a race under the belt I think that’s going to help a lot for the races coming up before the Tour.” 

No one at Bora-Hansgrohe has made bold statements about being the team to beat at the Tour this year. But the change in strategy of backing one leader - last season the squad also took a sprinter, leaving Hindley isolated on the climbs in some stages – the acquisition of Roglič, collective experience, not to mention a planned partnership with Red Bull, all contributes to it being a very exciting prospect. Two out of three Grand Tours last year ended with multiple riders from the same team on the podium. 

Even though Hindley’s role has changed this year he plans to prepare with the same fervour as he did last, this time aided by the benefit of hindsight and experience.

“In the end I have to get myself to the start line in Firenze in the best possible shape and that’s all I can do. Then the race is the race,” he said. 

“I’m going in there with an open mind. I’m also super keen. I think it will be a pretty sick edition of the Tour and I think also to go with the team we’ll probably take will be awesome; just to be a part of that team I think would be really special.”

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