Jai Hindley’s Giro d’Italia challenge enters brutal final week of Alpine climbs

Home Sports Jai Hindley’s Giro d’Italia challenge enters brutal final week of Alpine climbs
Jai Hindley’s Giro d’Italia challenge enters brutal final week of Alpine climbs

The Giro d’Italia is into its final week and Aussie Jai Hindley is still gunning for pink.

Sitting just seven seconds behind overall race leader Richard Carapaz, Hindley is back in the sort of form that saw him claim second place at the 2020 edition of the race.

No Australian has ever won the Giro d’Italia, and Hindley told reporters during the final rest day of this year’s race that he’s going all out for victory.

“We’re here to win the race. We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t think we could win it.”

Jai Hindley rides his bike in a line of Bora-Hansgrohe teammates
Jai Hindley’s Bora-Hansgrohe team are fully geared for general classification success.(Getty Images: Michael Steele)

Hindley is confident, and justifiably so, but there is still 888km of racing across six stages to go in this year’s race, with over 18,000 metres of climbing to boot.

“I think the last week will be super hard based on the course,” Hindley, who is one of just four Australians to stand on a Grand Tour podium, said.

Here’s a look at where this year’s Giro might be won and lost.

Stage 16: Salò to Aprica

A graphic showing the elevation profile of a bike race
Stage 16 is very up and down, featuring four mountains and over 5,000 metres of climbing.(Supplied: Giro d’Italia)

After Monday’s rest day, the peloton stays in the high Alps for this brutal 202km stage which features four categorised climbs and more than 5,000 metres of climbing.

One of those climbs is the feared Mortirolo pass, one of the most brutal ascents in world cycling.

Officially 12.6km long, with an average gradient of 7.2 per cent, pinching at 16 per cent towards the summit, this climb has the potential to cause huge splits in the main group.

After that, it only gets more difficult, with two punishing climbs to finish, including a stinging rise up to Passo di Santa Cristina, 13.5km of brutally steep roads, the second half of which averages more than 10 per cent.

On paper, this is one of the toughest stages of this year’s race.

Stage 17: Ponte di Legno to Lavarone

The elevation profile of a bike race
Stage 17 is shorter, but just as lumpy, particularly in the second half.(Supplied: Giro d’Italia)

Got through Tuesday’s monstrosity of a stage? Why not have another.

The one thing that you can say about this stage is that it’s shorter at 168km and, for the first half at least, features a very long downhill section.

That there’s still 3,730 metres of climbing, crammed mostly into the final 90km of the day, tells you that this is another stage for the climbers.

Cyclists ride on a road with snow-capped mountains in the background
The riders remain in the Alps for the first two days of week three.(Getty Images: Tim de Waele/Corbis)

Stage 18: Borgo Valsugana to Treviso

Flat, mercifully flat.

This 156km stage will be for the few remaining sprinters — not Caleb Ewan though, he left the race without a stage win this time around.

It’s the first time Ewan has failed to win a stage at a Grand Tour since the 2016 Giro — excluding the 2021 Tour de France that he crashed out of early.

The leaders will likely sit back and let the sprint teams control this one.

Stage 19: Marano Lagunare to Santuario di Castelmonte

The elevation profile of stage 19 of the 2022 Giro d'Italia.
Stage 19 takes a brief, pointy excursion into Slovenia.(Supplied: Giro d’Italia)

It’s another lumpy one, 177km with another 3,230 metres of climbing.

The stage takes a brief detour into Slovenia, where the 10km-long Kolovrat climb awaits with its average gradient of just under 10 per cent, one of four categorised climbs on the stage.

That includes a summit finish to the Santuario Di Castelmonte, a 7km leg-destroyer of a climb with a pinch of 14 per cent.

Stage 20: Belluno to Marmolada

Riders cycle past a misty mountain with snow on it
The Dolomites always provide an impressive backdrop, and brutal racing.(Getty Images: Tim De Waele)

The race book describes this as a “colossal” stage, and who are we to argue?

The elevation profile of stage 19 of the 2022 Giro d'Italia.
The penultimate stage of the race features 4,490 metres of climbing through the Dolomites and a mountain-top finish.(Supplied: Giro d’Italia)

Another summit finish, this route includes three monstrous climbs as part of 4,490 metres of climbing on a 168km stage.

Those three Dolomite passes may well determine who wins this year’s edition of the race, particularly the final climb up the Fedaia pass.

The last 5km of the race has an average gradient of over 11 per cent and maxes out at 18 per cent.

Stage 21: Verona individual time trial

Unlike the Tour de France, the Giro doesn’t go in for a ceremonial procession to end its races. 

The race ends with a 17.4km individual time trial through the streets of Verona and, should Hindley still be in contention, there will be a whole lot of baggage that he might need to get over in this stage.

After all, last time he was in contention at the Giro, in 2020, he actually raced the final stage in the pink leader’s jersey, only to be overhauled by Tao Geoghegan Hart in the final time trial.

This year’s race could offer a chance for redemption — if he’s still in contention.

The race for pink

In one of the closest Giros in decades, five riders are within 61 seconds of the race lead.

The man currently in pink and pre-race favourite Richard Carapaz has the powerful Ineos Grenadiers team at his beck and call.

That includes Australian Richie Porte as a key lieutenant.

Richard Carapaz and Jai Hindley ride their bikes next to each other
Jai Hindley (right) will be hoping to finish in front of Richard Carapaz during this third week, just as he did on stage 14.(Getty Images: Michael Steele)

Carapaz, the 2019 winner, has looked pretty good in the mountains so far and, with such a powerful team behind him, you’d think the race is probably his to lose.

João Almeida currently sits 30 seconds off the race lead and will remain a threat, particularly given he completed the stage two time trial 9 seconds faster than Carapaz.

The 23-year-old’s UAE-Team Emirates is not quite geared up to supporting the youngster’s overall ambitions in the mountains.

Elder statesmen Mikel Landa, 32, and Domenico Pozzovivo, 39, have the benefit of experience and sit just 59 and 61 seconds back, respectively.

Landa’s Bahrain-Victorious teammate Pello Bilbao is another rider who sits in close contention, 1:52 behind, but importantly for Hindley is the fact that his teammate Emanuel Buchmann is just shy of two minutes off the pace.

That gives Bora-Hansgrohe plenty of options should Hindley have a bad day and added incentive for its stacked list of general classification riders to control the race, just as it did in parts of Sunday’s Alpine stage.

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