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It was a nervous moment for Australian cycling fans, even Robbie McEwen audibly gasped on commentary, as Jai Hindley dropped away from the peloton on the run-in to the finish of the Giro d’Italia’s stage 18.
There had already been splits in the final few kilometres into Treviso, the white jersey of Juan Pedro López (Trek-Segafredo) and blue jersey of Koen Bouwman (Jumbo-Visma) on the wrong side of proceedings, as the peloton tried in vain to catch the successful breakaway that claimed stage honours.
So when Hindley could be seen drifting away from the whittled-down bunch with little over 2 km to go, the immediate thought was the Australian had been dislodged as well. When he crossed the line, the Bora-Hansgrohe man had lost a minute.
Was that it? Was the GC race now over in the blink of an eye? But the three-second gap between the top two had promised so much for this final weekend of the race…
A comforting sign was that Hindley didn’t look too perturbed as he came across the line and word soon filtered through that he had suffered a puncture within the final 3km, after which point time losses are not incurred if they are caused by crashes or mechanical issues.
“Yeah I think he had a mechanical in the last two and a half so should get the same time and should be no stress,” Hindley’s teammate Lennard Kämna said after the finish. “It was definitely not relaxed, it was a pretty hard day. We were quite stressed in the last 30km. Everything worked out, the mechanical was a pity but it shouldn’t be a problem.”
Phew, there’s still all to play for in the GC battle, game on!