By Michael Bleby
Jai Hindley’s Giro d’Italia victory has given Geoff Wilson a big smile. The Wilson Asset Management chairman – and board member of this year’s UCI Road World Championships to be held in Wollongong – expects the value of the sponsorship WAM sealed last month to take a leap.
Hindley, who on Sunday threw off the memory of being pipped to first place in the 2020 race to become the first Australian rider to win Italy’s Grand Tour, would give road cycling “a shot in the arm” and boost the Australian leg of the global event in September, Mr Wilson said.
“Since the incredible performance of Jai last night, our potential return has just increased,” he told The Australian Financial Review.
“The currency of what we purchased has all of a sudden become more valuable.”
On Monday, the cycling world celebrated the West Australian’s race, which made him only the second Australian after Cadel Evans’ 2011 Tour de France victory to win a Grand Tour – the world’s major professional cycling stage races of which Vuelta a España is the third.
But the Wollongong 2022 organisers were also very clear on the benefits for the September event of having a recent local Grand Tour winner.
“Wins of this magnitude make international cycling more relevant to an Australian audience, creating more opportunities to grow participation and commercial support, and amplify the transformation taking place in Australian cycling,” said Wollongong 2022 CEO Stu Taggart.
The UCI yearly event includes 1000 athletes across 11 disciplines, an anticipated global TV audience of 300 million and an expected spectator audience in Wollongong of 300,000.
Hindley ended 1 minute, 18 seconds in front of 2019 champion – and pre-race favourite – Richard Carapaz following the individual time trial that finished in Verona, next to the city’s Arena, a Roman amphitheatre.
“At 26 years of age, he’s going to be extremely hot property in the world of cycling,” said Matt Poyner, the chief executive of national body AusCycling WA.
“This has the potential to take Jai from being a well-known possibly gonnabe to a superstar of world cycling.”
Glenn Te Raki, the chief operating officer of WestCycle, the state’s peak body, said Hindley’s win this time was a direct consequence of his loss in 2020.
“In 2020, Jai came so close to winning the Giro that the disappointing loss was the driving motivating factor to his success in 2022,” Mr Te Raki said.
Hindley, who grew up under the tutelage of his father Gordon and rode for Perth’s Midland Cycle Club, had to work hard to achieve his success, said Brad Hall, the managing director of Cycling Development Foundation, a not-for-profit development organisation for junior athletes.
“He was up there, but we’re not talking about a guy who from day one has been a world-beater,” said Mr Hall, who rode with Hindley in 2015.
Showing values instilled by his father, Hindley “was very insistent and determined” and used the disappointment of the 2020 loss – by just 39 seconds – to improve himself, Mr Hall said.
“What he’s done in the last couple of years is he’s gone away and worked really hard at all his weaknesses,” he said.
“That’s always been Jai’s gift – he will work at something, regardless of the outcome. He’s the perfect workhorse.”
Mr Wilson said WAM’s sponsorship – the value of which he declined to disclose – did not buy signage rights on Wollongong’s historic courthouse clock tower for the event that runs from September 18-25.
“We would have liked the clocktower, but that’s already gone,” he said. “We just hope we can get some WAM signage behind the various winners.”
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