Homegrown cycling heroes Jai Hindley and Ben O’Connor pave way for the sport’s future stars

West Australians have their own homegrown Grand Tour champion sitting at the pinnacle of cycling.

Jai Hindley stepped up in the Giro d’Italia this year and became one of only two Australians to stand on the top of the podium as an overall race winner — with Cadel Evans taking out the Tour de France in 2011.

It’s nothing short of a triumph, but there may well be more to come.

And Hindley isn’t the only West Australian prospect.

Ben O'Connor raises his arms above his head as he crosses the finish line at the Giro d'Italia.
West Australian Ben O’Connor is a Tour de France championship hopeful.(AP: Massimo Paolone)

Last year, Ben O’Connor joined the cycling elite after finishing in fourth in his Tour de France debut, just three minutes shy of a podium finish.

Australia has recently emerged as a treasure trove of cycling talent, accruing podium finishes in four of the last seven Grand Tours.

And WA’s own trailblazers may be setting the tone for the next generation of future champions.

This is where dreams begin

Retired cycling great Graeme Brown highlighted the importance of Hindley’s victory in setting up young cyclists in WA.

“Jai was just a normal boy one day, and now he’s won the tour of Italy,” he said.

Teenagers lined up holding on to railing on their bicycles in a velodrome.
Junior cyclists will aspire to reaching the lofty heights of Hindley’s achievements.(ABC News: Cason Ho)

“Kids watching it and going … maybe I can do that too. That’s where dreams begin, and no doubt Jai’s dream began the same way.”

Brown also relished in how the sport was now receiving more media attention in WA.

“They’re actually talking about bikes. Just bringing that awareness out for bikes,” he said.

“It’s huge for WA.”

Man in blue button up shirt listens intently to another person talking.
Graeme Brown holds two Olympic gold metals and several world titles.(ABC News: Cason Ho)

Speaking at a media conference after his win, Hindley said it was impossible to describe how special it felt to have the support of an entire country.

“I just want to say to all the young kids, especially the kids at Midland Cycle Club … dream big,” he said.

The Midland Cycle Club is where Hindley started his journey, training alongside other hopeful riders at the Perth velodrome.

The more-than-a-century old club has already received a significant boost in traffic since Hindley’s win, according to the club’s development coach Mark Williamson.

“We’re seeing a lot of interest in cycling in WA. Whether that’s on the track, on the road, whether it’s gravel, mountain bike, BMX … there’s a real interest,” he said.

Teenage boys stand huddled around a rack of bicycles.
The Midland Cycle Club is home to both young and experienced riders.(ABC News: Cason Ho)

“WA’s got a good track record of delivering high performance cyclists.”

‘Most important thing, have fun’

Speaking on advice for aspiring cyclists, Mr Williamson highlighted the importance of finding the right discipline, which varies from road to track to mountain biking, among others.

“Join a club. Learn how to handle a bike,” he said.

Man looks intently at a trophy case lined with LED lights.
Mark Williamson says the Midland Cycle Club is home to a long pedigree of cycling legends.(ABC News: Cason Ho)

“People who want to reach the highest level [are] usually, very self-driven. There’s a lot of good coaches here in WA. But it takes a lot of hard work and dedication.”

To start, Mr. Williamson recommended one thing.

“Just have fun.”

Young boys and girls cycling in a uniform line around a velodrome.
Smiles and laughter were abundant through the sweat as the junior cyclists trained.(ABC News: Cason Ho)

How hard is a grand tour?

The Tour de France is the most publicized Grand Tour, but among professional cycling circles, the Giro d’Italia — which Hindley won — is often touted as the most difficult.

“It’s a fatigue level beyond words can even describe,” Brown said, who has competed in the Giro himself.

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