• Jai Hindley of thye KordaMentha Real Estate national team. (Kathryn Watt - Watt Shotz Photography)Source: Kathryn Watt - Watt Shotz Photography
It was a coming of age for the young stars and a redemption for riders seeking a second chance as the KordaMentha Real Estate national team finished with five riders in the top eight of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour.
Jamie Finch-Penninger

Cycling Central
8 Feb 2017 - 9:26 AM  UPDATED 8 Feb 2017 - 9:27 AM

Jai Hindley was the headline act, attacking away from the elite group on the queen stage to Falls Creek and holding his position for the rest of the race despite a number of dangerous attacks from Team Sky.

Hindley is currently one of the best young climbers in Australia, with the Western Australian finishing fifth at the prestigious Tour de l’Avenir last season, very much the premier race for under 23 riders.

Attacking the group of pre-race favourites in the final kilometres of the queen stage of the Herald Sun Tour with teammate Michael Storer, he had an eerie sense of unreality as riders of the ilk of Chris Froome (Sky) and Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott) were left behind by his surge.

“Looking back and seeing you have the gap, the adrenaline goes through the roof," Hindley said. "For me, it was definitely a big result, I’m over the moon with it. It’s pretty unreal just racing guys like Froome and Chaves. It’s pretty epic racing those guys and it was an unreal day.”

Hindley described his feelings of being briefly dropped as three-time Tour de France champion Froome made his last-ditch move on the final ascent of the Tour.

“Deep down I knew I had to ride my own tempo no matter how fast he was going, I didn’t feel super uncomfortable so I had to ride and not panic at all," he said. "Knowing the KOM and with the tailwind, it was hard for anything to stay away and I had guys there who were capable of bringing it back for me.”

Like any rider, it has a been a long road to the top for Hindley, forging his own way in Europe before catching the selectors’ eyes and getting support through the national team system.

“I started cycling when I was six years old, my old man used to race at Continental level back in the day and he got me into it," he said. "I progressed through track racing and road racing in Australia as a junior.

"When I was a first year under 23, I went over the Italy for six months to race as an amateur there. That was a big life experience, it gave me some motivation to step it up to the next level.

“When I came back I got the opportunity to ride with the national team which was pretty unreal for me as I didn’t have many options after that first year. It’s pretty unreal riding with the national team setup, everyone’s awesome at their jobs."

Hindley was arguably the revelation of 2016 in the World Tour Academy with the likes of Michael Storer and Lucas Hamilton coming into the team with big reputations in place, while he had to earn his way into race leadership. The trio now forms the nucleus of what has the potential to be one of the best generations of Australian climbing talent.

James Victor, sports director for the national team and head coach for the WorldTour Academy was quick to show his confidence in his young charges after the race.

“The young guys came out of Europe with a lot of confidence in what they could do,” Victor said. “I highlighted that in the meeting this morning, they didn’t have to chase Froome and Chaves around Europe to show them what they’ve got, instead they have come to them.

“It’s a really good group, Jai, Michael and Lucas are all different characters but they gelled really well in Europe last year. They’re all winners and they’re aware of team tactics and how to race when they’re the best on any given day.”

Last year Chris Hamilton (Sunweb), Ben O’Connor (Dimension Data) and Miles Scotson (BMC) all made the jump to the WorldTour, and while the future is bright for Hindley as he attempts to follow the production line of Australian talent into those ranks, he isn’t keen on rushing things.

“That’s the plan, that’s the dream,” Hindley said. “I’m keen to do another year as an under 23 at least and see how far I can get with that, maybe even another year after that, I just don’t want to rush the development side of things.”

Hindley and his teammates will have a full calendar of racing coming up, with the team looking to excel in the races which suit their climbing talent.

“We’ve got a big calendar coming up and it’s been an awesome summer of racing in Oz doing Down Under and Cadel’s," he said. "Nationals was a bit disappointing for me so I’m rapt to come here and really showcase myself against guys of this calibre.”

The big goal of the season for any young rider is the Tour de l’Avenir, those that have performed well there in the past have gone on to excel at WorldTour level and it is the first place scouts from the WorldTour teams look for fresh talent to sign.

“That’s the plan. We’ll go there again with a stronger team and more experience but for sure it would be unreal to get on the podium at L’Avenir."