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Jai Hindley’s journey into the unknown, chasing history at the Vuelta a España

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Jai Hindley’s life changed forever at the Giro d’Italia in May.

In becoming just the second Australian to win one of cycling’s Grand Tours — the three-week long tests of endurance and skill that make up the sport’s toughest tests — the affable 28-year-old West Australian broke new ground for himself and Australian cycling.

On Friday in The Netherlands, he’ll go again, this time taking on the Spanish Grand Tour, the Vuelta a España.

Just 10 men have won two Grand Tours in a calendar year.

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Could Hindley become the 11th?

“You never know,” Hindley told ABC Sport earlier this week.

“It would be pretty nice [but] I’m not really thinking of winning two [Grand Tours], I’m just focusing on doing the best result possible at the Vuelta.

“It would be pretty special if the team won here, so hopefully we can do that.

“But it’s gonna be a long, hard three weeks, so we’ll see what happens.”

Hindley ‘up for the challenge’

Jai Hindley was pretty in pink back in May. Come the end of September, he’ll hope to be radiant in red. (Getty Images: Tim de Waele)

Hindley is under no illusions of what faces him in his sixth Grand Tour start.

To list the riders who have claimed two Grand Tour overall victories in a single season is to name of some of the biggest stars in cycling history.

Fausto Coppi, Jacques Anquetil, Bernard Hinault, Miguel Indurain, Marco Pantani, Stephen Roche and, most recently, Chris Froome have claimed two in a season.

Just Eddie Merckx (1973), Giovanni Battaglin (1981) and Alberto Contador (2008) have done so with the Giro-Vuelta double.

Eddie Merckx rides his bike
“The Cannibal” Eddy Merckx (leading the pack) is one of the greatest riders of all time, having won 11 Grand Tours, all five monuments and the World Championship three times.(Getty Images: ullstein bild/RDB/J. E. Brazerol)

“It was really cool to win the Giro,” Hindley said.

“My first year with the team, my first Grand Tour with the team, that was really nice so, yeah, I think it does take a bit of pressure off.

“But, at the same time, I won the Giro, so now the expectation is to be able to back up that performance.”

After enjoying a well-earned rest to soak in his Giro triumph — and come to terms with the “full-on but at the same time really nice” attention it garnered — Hindley has built himself back up via a high-altitude camp in Andorra throughout July and a recent racing block in Spain.

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