When Jai Hindley signed with the new Mitchelton-Scott development team ahead at the beginning of last season, his route to the WorldTour seemed obvious. The Australian, however, has never been shy about following his own path, and he begins his top flight career in 2018 in the colours of Team Sunweb.
The German-registered squad had been following Hindley’s progress with interest from before his entry into the GreenEdge set-up, and moved decisively in the aftermath of his fine cameo at the Herald Sun Tour last February. By late summer, Hindley and his fellow Mitchelton-Scott Continental rider Michael Storer – who placed 3rd at the Giro della Valle d’Aosta – had put pen to paper with Sunweb.
“They contacted me pretty early in the season last year and they were interested from the beginning,” Hindley told Cyclingnews. “When a team shows that much faith in you that early on, it’s pretty nice. I really like what the team do with the young riders and how they develop them. They’re probably one of the best teams in the world when it comes to that.”
Mitchelton-Scott, of course, pride themselves on a similar commitment to youth, and can point to how Esteban Chaves and Adam and Simon Yates have developed into Grand Tour contenders on their watch. Almost paradoxically, however, that very abundance of young stage racing talent in the WorldTour team could mean that riders on the development squad, like Hindley and Storer, have been open to looking elsewhere for opportunities.
“Obviously, it’s a bit funny but they were really understanding and they just wanted what was best for me,” Hindley said of the Mitchelton-Scott reaction to his Sunweb move. “They have a lot of young GC contenders already, although that wasn’t the deciding factor. I just think it’s nice as well to do something different to what a lot of the other Australians do. I’m super excited to do something different.”
A different path
In that regard, Hindley’s decision to sign with Sunweb is perhaps in keeping with the tenor of his career to date. Since the emergence of Robbie McEwen and Stuart O’Grady in the mid-1990s, the Australian Institute of Sport has provided an established pathway to the top level for young Australian riders, but the early part of Hindley’s amateur career bore more similarities with those of the so-called Foreign Legion of the late 1970s and early 1980s.
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