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AUSSIE JAI HINDLEY IS THE NEW RACE LEADER in this year’s Tour de France after a surprise victory in the fifth stage from Pau to Laruns.

Hindley claimed the yellow jersey from British rider Adam Yates after taking out the 162.4km mountain stage in the Pyrenees.

Competing in his first Tour, the 27-year-old from Perth, who won the Giro d’Italia last year, has a 47 second cumulative lead over 2022 winner Jonas Vingegaard, who finished fifth in the stage. Italy’s Giulo Ciccone is in third, with the other main contender, two-time winner Tadej Pogacar, currently in sixth place.

Hindley entered stage 5 in seventh place overall, 22 seconds behind Yates, but the BORA-Hansgrohe rider was part of a 36-man early breakaway group that opened up a four-minute buffer on the main pack on the Col de Soudet, midway through the stage. Hindley then hit overdrive, breaking away from the leading group on the final climb of the Col de Marie Blanque.

“I can’t believe it,” a shocked Hindley told reporters post-race. “I was pretty surprised to find myself in that group. I just sort of slipped into it. I was sort of having fun, then looked back and there was no group behind so I thought, ‘I guess we’re in for a bike race’ . . . then I started to think about the stage win.”

Hindley had been pragmatic in the lead-up to this year’s event, aiming merely to hold his own in his first Tour. Needless to say he’s surpassed his and probably most of the field’s expectations. “It’s really incredible and I’ve no words,” said Hindley. “The guys on the radio were screaming … I just wanted to get as much time as possible and get the win. I didn’t really know what to expect, it’s my first tour, it’s hard to come here with such massive ambition [to win it] already but I want to be competitive and have some form of success and yeah, I just won a stage of the Tour de France.”

Jumbo-Visma team manager Merijn Zeeman praised the Aussie’s aggressive ride. “He’s a Giro winner and he’s one of the few to have won a Grand Tour. He’s very strong. He had the balls to do it, so big respect to him.”

So who is Australia’s newest sporting hero? And does he have a shot at a podium finish?

Who is Jai Hindley?

Hindley grew up in Perth and has wanted to be a pro cyclist since he was six years old when he first took up the sport. His dad was a keen cyclist and Hindley and his brother followed in his footsteps. Watching the Tour de France every year was a family ritual, with Hindley inspired by Aussie riders like Robbie McEwen, Baden Cooke, Stuart O’Grady and Brad McGee to believe that he could one day compete in the iconic race for himself.

Can Jai Hindley win the Tour de France?

It’s a big call. Hindley is a great climber so his victory in the Pyrenees is not totally unexpected. That said, this year’s Tour does have plenty of hills. Hindley’s victory in last year’s Giro will have given him the confidence that he can build and hold a lead. But pre-race favourites Vingegaard and Pogacar are lurking. Another stage win for Hindley isn’t out of the question and a podium finish is definitely on the cards.

Who was the last Australian to win the Tour de France?

Cadel Evans won the Tour back in 2011, while Rohan Dennis led it in 2015. Hindley is the ninth Aussie to wear the yellow jersey. Evans warned Hindley prior to this year’s race to keep his expectations in check on his first Tour. “I think for him it’s important to go to the Tour not with an expectation of getting a certain result,” Evans told the Sydney Morning Herald. “The depth of the level of the Tour is what really makes it so hard and that takes a little bit of getting used to. Hence why I think, for Jai, go in, see what he can do and take it from there, rather than go with an expectation, maybe not get anywhere near that and then therefore an otherwise good race may become a negative experience.”

What is the format of the Tour de France?

The Tour is a test of endurance, tactical nous and teamwork. The route changes every year, sometimes running in clockwise and other times counter-clockwise circuits of France and often includes stages in other European countries – this year’s Tour begins in Bilbao in Spain’s Basque Country. The format, however, remains the same with 21 day-long stages over 23 days, covering roughly 3,500 kilometres. Included in these stages are time trials, the notorious climbing legs through the Pyrenees and the Alps and the final stage into Paris, finishing on the Champs-Élysées.

Each year 20 to 22 teams of eight riders compete, with the winner decided by a cumulative tally of their times from each stage. The rider with the lowest cumulative time wins, earning the iconic yellow jersey.

What do the different coloured jerseys mean?

Yellow Jersey (General Classification) Awarded to the race winner, based on cumulative time to complete all stages.

Green Jersey (Points Classification) The secondary tier of the race sees points awarded to high place finishes in stages and winning intermediate sprints.

Polka dot Jersey (Mountains Classification) This is awarded to the rider who reaches the summit of the mountains first, there after known as the ‘King of the Mountains’.

White Jersey (Young Rider Classification) Awarded to the leading rider under 26.

Numbers (Team classification) This goes to the team with the first three finishers on each stage. Rather than a coloured jersey, the numbers on the riders’ jerseys are highlighted against a yellow background instead of white.

What are the remaining stages in the 2023 Tour de France?

Stage 6, Thursday 6 July: Tarbes-Cauterets, 145km

Day two in the Pyrenees features the soul-sapping Col du Tourmalet, then another long climb to finish.

Stage 7, Friday 7 July: Mont de Marsan-Bordeaux, 170km

Happy times, we’re back on flat land with a sprint to the finish.

Stage 8, Saturday 8 July: Libourne-Limoges, 201km

At just over 200 clicks, this is a long one with an undulating final third. A bitch in other words.

Stage 9, Sunday 9 July: St Léonard de Noblat-Le Puy de Dôme, 182.5km

A stage devoted to French champion Raymond Poulidor starts in his hometown and finishes on an extinct volcano. The last 4km is comically steep.

Stage 10, Tuesday 11 July: Vulcania-Issoire, 167km

Riders will have fresh-ish legs after a rest day, which may allow them to enjoy this stage’s lush vistas before a downhill finish.

Stage 11, Wednesday 12 July: Clermont Ferrand-Moulins, 180km

Expect a mass sprint to the line, likely the last for a while.

Stage 12, Thursday 13 July: Roanne-Belleville en Beaujolais, 169km

Winding through Beaujolais vineyards, this is spectacular for fans but with some mid-sized climbs, no picnic (with a bottle of Beau and brie, of course!) for riders.

Stage 13, Friday 14 July: Châtillon sur Chalaronne-Grand Colombier, 138km

Look out for a big climb around the middle and a killer 17km ascent to the finish.

Stage 14, Saturday 15 July: Annemasse-Morzine, 152km

Featuring the arduous Col de Joux Plane, you’re looking at a long, steep climb followed by complicated descent to the line.

Stage 15, Sunday 16 July: Les Gets-Saint Gervais Mont Blanc, 179km

Up we go. In the initial run to Les Amerands the gradient reaches 18%.

Stage 16, Tuesday 18 July: Passy-Combloux, 22.4km ITT

After a second rest day, riders are rewarded with a time trial. On your marks!

Stage 17, Wednesday 19 July: Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc-Courchevel, 166km

Before we exit the alpine stages, riders must first negotiate the Col de la Loze, which at 28km, is the longest climb they’ve seen for a while.

Stage 18, Thursday 20 July: Moûtiers-Bourg-en-Bresse, 185km

With a long flat run out we’re back in mass sprint territory.

Stage 19, Friday 21 July: Moirans-en-Montagne-Poligny, 173km

Another flat stage, this should mostly be a sprint save for little ascent 26km from the line.

Stage 20, Saturday 22 July: Belfort-Le Markstein Fellering, 133.5km

You thought we were done with mountains? This final mountain stage could well be decisive.

Stage 21, Sunday 23 July: Saint Quentin en Yvelines-Paris Champs Élysées, 115km

Almost there. The final stage starts at the national velodrome before finishing on the Champs Elysées, where the sprinters can show off for the cameras. Due to the Paris 2024 Olympics, next year’s Tour will conclude in Nice, the first time it’s finished outside Paris since 1905.

Ben Jhoty covers sport and wellness for Esquire Australia.

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