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Rolf Aldag: It’s ‘unfair’ to expect Jai Hindley to beat Tadej Pogačar or Jonas Vingegaard at Tour de France

Bora-Hansgrohe is targeting a podium at the Tour de France as well as aiming for the Giro d'Italia GC.

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Bora-Hansgrohe lead sport director Rolf Aldag believes it would be unfair to expect Jai Hindley to beat either Tadej Pogačar or Jonas Vingegaard at this year’s Tour de France.

Hindley is making his Tour de France debut this summer after taking his, and the team’s, first grand tour title at the Giro d’Italia last year. The Australian beat Richard Carapaz by 1:18 after dramatically dropping him on the final mountain stage of the race.

He will lead Bora-Hansgrohe’s GC charge at the Tour, but the team is going with split ambitions as it aims to wrap up some stage wins in the sprints with Sam Bennett. If everything goes to plan for Pogačar and Vingegaard, Aldag believes the final podium spot is the most realistic aim.

“Obviously, there’s some difference between Giro and Tour,” Aldag told VeloNews. “You have these outstanding teams with Jumbo-Visma and UAE, and if you’re the guy who can follow along with Vingegaard and Pogačar, then you will be automatically third in the tour. So, it’s not that you have to have a master plan.

“What happens to the health of those guys, nobody knows and somebody can have a bad day. So, is there possibly more on the table? Maybe. But is it realistic to say we are going to go there with a split team of sprinters and GC guys thinking we can control the Tour and say ‘this is the point where we’re going to launch Jai, and this is the point where he’s going to attack and drop everybody?’ That would probably be an unfair sense of expectation.

“We want to have really good support for him. For the Tour de France, we have 16 people on the long list because of that mix of sprinting and climbing GC. That has to be seen a little bit, but it’s clear he’s the winner of the Giro and he deserves our support.”

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For Bennett, it will be his first time at the Tour de France since he took two stage wins and the green points classification at the 2020 race. He was forced to miss the following year’s edition due to a knee injury he picked up in training.

There will be a plethora of opportunities for the Irishman to get one on the board again and back up his performance at the Vuelta a España last season.

“Sam did finish the season really well, with two stage wins in the Vuelta, but for sure he wants to prove himself from the beginning, which he started to do in Argentina. That was pretty promising, but on that end, I think we all know we can do better,” Aldag said.

“At the Tour de France, if everything goes normally, we have a ton of sprint stages there and with Sam in shape with Danny [van Poppel] as a lead out ahead of him, I wouldn’t see a reason why we couldn’t win a couple of sprint stages.”

Jai Hindley won Bora-Hansgrohe's first grand tour title
Jai Hindley won Bora-Hansgrohe’s first grand tour title (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Going to the Tour with dualling ambitions is possible — as was shown by Jumbo-Visma at last year’s race with Jonas Vingegaard winning yellow and Wout van Aert taking green — but it does provide a headache when picking exactly who goes. Hindley and Bennett are dead certs, as is Bennett’s leadout man Van Poppel.

“Of course, if you ask me I would personally prefer to have 10 people on the Tour de France team with this divided goal of sprint and GC, but I don’t think ASO will allow me to do so. We have a super strong performance team, so the coaches have a voice in that and the sport directors also have a voice on that. Whatever it is, I think we will feel safe we’re making the right decision. That’s important if you traveled to the tour to say, well, this is a team, I think, and we’re convinced it’s the best team we can send.”

A rising threat

Behind the super team trio of Jumbo-Visma, UAE Team Emirates, and Ineos Grenadiers, Bora-Hansgrohe emerged as the best of the rest last season and is a potential contender to join that club. They finished fourth in the world rankings, thanks to Hindley’s win at the Giro d’Italia as well as top performances from Sergio Higuita, who will lead the team at the Giro d’Italia, and Aleksandr Vlasov.

While the squad lost a strong support rider in Wilco Kelderman over the winter, it snapped up Bob Jungels and Nico Denz. The team also boasts Emanuel Buchmann, Max Schachmann, and Patrick Konrad.

Aldag believes that the team was underestimated in 2022, but it won’t be like that for much longer if they keep making the progress they hope to.

“It’s just a process. Last year we won the Giro but to win the Tour [this year] would probably be a little bit optimistic,” he said. “It’s about learning and getting all the protocols right. Winning the Giro came as a surprise and we were completely undervalued by our competitors. Not a single day we really had to ride, somebody else was always more than happy to control the race and to spend a lot of energy, so we could use that in riding aggressively offensively.

“Now that will change over time, which also means you have to have more resources in helping. It’s not going to be so easy to go there. We will go with a really strong team to do the Giro again, with a full focus on GC. It does make sense to say we will aim for defending the title, but I don’t think you can be disappointed if you end up with a podium. The competition will be super high at the Giro so we could live with that.”

Sergio Higuita will lead Bora-Hansgrohe at the Giro d'Italia
Sergio Higuita will lead Bora-Hansgrohe at the Giro d’Italia (Photo: Tim de Waele / Getty Images)

The team also has up-and-coming GC star Cian Uijtdebroeks on its roster after signing him to the WorldTour last season aged just 18. The young Belgian showed his promise with the overall win at the Tour de l’Avenir against some more experienced riders.

He’s already getting his teeth stuck into his second season as a professional and he finished ninth at the Tour of Oman. Aldag has big hopes for Uijtdebroeks but says there is plenty of time for the 20-year-old to learn the ropes.

“That learning process is still there. But last year he already really showed great results … He needs to pick up more of the strategy stuff. And everything else will just come by age,” he said. “He was in Saudi Tour with us last year, and at the end of the day, it was kind of interesting to see that a super strong, intelligent guy was still missing a lot of stuff. There was a crosswind situation and one guy from the Kuwait national team was dropped, the next guy with a national team was dropped, and then came Cian because he was just not used to like full crosswind situation at a pro level.

“That won’t happen anymore, and he has gained self-confidence. He knows much more like where to ride and what to do. There’s still a way to go obviously, for him, but in Mallorca, he already showed some really good performances, super professional young kid and he will go his way, but we should give him the time.”

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