Jai Hindley is 22 years old and he recently moved from a successful under-23s racing career to join the WorldTour squad at Team Sunweb. The Prologue spoke to him during the second rest day at his first-ever Grand Tour, the Vuelta a España 2018.
How has your rest day been?
It’s been mega; not doing much at all is a real luxury. I had an easy ride with the boys this morning after a bit of a sleep in, and then sushi for lunch—super nice! Living the dream [Jai laughs].
This is your first-ever Grand Tour, how is it going so far?
I have never done anything like this before, racing for three weeks. The longest I’ve ever raced for has been ten days and that was pretty challenging, but this is a huge difference.
Is the pace of racing different at this level?
For sure! Compared to the under-23s racing I was doing last year, it’s a bit ridiculous, to be honest. If you were to ride an under-23s race at the tempo that the pros ride at, you would probably be going solo!
But you’re still in the race!?
I came into the race relatively fresh, which probably helped. I’ve just been trying to get through each day as best as possible.
Do you feel like you are being useful in the team?
I do try to keep helping Wilco [Kelderman] for as long as possible in the race, but when it comes to a 10-kilometre mountaintop finish after four hours of full-gas racing it’s pretty hard to keep up.
Do you think this is developing you as a rider and a racer?
Definitely. Even just comparing how my legs are handling the racing now with how they were handling at beginning of this season—I was just getting absolutely served every single day during the Volta a Catalunya and the Tour of the Basque Country [in April], they were savage! But while I’m not winning stages right now, I do feel that I am staying in the race, and every day I try and contribute to the team as much as I can.
How would you characterise yourself as a rider?
Well, I thought I was a climber [Jai laughs] and then I came into the WorldTour team and it’s like think again. But I really like climbing, and the mountain days are my favourite, but it’s been pretty hard trying to transfer that over to the pro ranks, that’s for sure!
What’s surprised you most about your first Grand Tour?
The scale, I guess. Just how big it all is. All the fans going bananas. It’s supercool! You don’t get that in amateur racing at all. People literally wait on the side of the road for days on end just to see the race go past—that’s really motivating for me to do my best. Especially in the Basque Country, the fans there create a fantastic atmosphere!
What would your advice be to other young riders, about to embark on a Grand Tour?
It’s a bit of a cliché, but I’d say to take things day-by-day is the most important. You have to focus on each day as it comes and only worry about the harder stuff when it gets to you.
It is more physically or mentally tough for you during this Vuelta?
For me right now, it’s primarily physical. But mentally I think if you get into a good routine, then it seems to just fly past, especially after the first rest day, which is a real milestone. If you get into the swing of wake up, eat, race, sleep, repeat, then it all happens surprisingly fast.
How have you experienced your first season at Team Sunweb?
It’s been unreal! The team is super-organised, really well structured and I’ve had a really challenging race calendar, so it’s been great for me. I’m not really the most structured person, so this highly structured environment is very good for me. This team really looks after us younger riders, so it’s great to be a part of that.
What does your season look like after the Vuelta?
I’m down for the under-23 race at the UCI Road World Championships, which is cool. Then I’ve got three super nice Italian one-day Classics, which I’m riding for the first time ever: Tre Valli Varesine, Milano-Tireno and then the Giro de Lombardia. Tre Valli finishes in Varese and I used to live not far from there, with the Australian national team set-up, so I know the roads and it will be good to be return to my old stomping ground!