Jai Hindley was right: he hadn't come to the Giro "to put socks on centipedes" after all. Hindley uttered that deliciously Australian expression after slashing Richard Carapaz's lead to three seconds in Aprica at the start of the third week - the same three seconds by which he trailed his rival for pink going into Saturday's final day in the mountains.
Not any more. It seems Hindley's Bora-Hansgrohe knew what they were going all along. That 150km shift on the front of the peloton on Friday’s Stage 19 did serve a purpose after all – as the first part of a masterplan that ultimately broke Richard Carapaz’s dreams of pink and propelled Hindley to certain glory.
With a little bit of help from his friend Lenny Kamna, Australia’s Hindley went into the red to take pink – and this time even a shoddy time trial in the race’s official pink skinsuit won’t take it from him on the final day. All talk of the 26-year-old’s breakthrough performance in 2020 being a fluke had been put to bed in the final kilometres of the climb they call the Queen of the Dolomites.
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To be fair to Hindley, his victory on the equally brutal Blockhaus at the end of the opening week did enough to silence the critics and draw the curtain over the difficult 20 months since he agonisingly lost the Giro on the last day to Tao Geoghegan Hart.

'What an incredible ride!' - Wiggins reacts to Hindley and Stage 20 at the finish line

Hindley has hardly put a foot wrong throughout the 105th edition of the race, shadowing Carapaz’s every move and inching ever closer to the 2019 champion’s pink jersey lead – most notably with that sprint for third place and four vital bonus seconds at Aprica.
Four seconds which now look wholly immaterial. But it was clearly because Hindley was so mindful of the perils of entering the final race of truth with such a small margin of error that he and his team went about pulling off the masterstroke which saw a three-second deficit turn into a surely unassailable 1:25 lead ahead of the 17.4km ITT in Verona.
If Bora-Hansgrohe entered the Giro with three riders vying for leadership in Hindley, Germany’s Emanuel Buchmann and Wilco Kelderman of the Netherlands, it was the charismatic German climber Kamna who stole the early limelight with his win on Mount Etna and a stint in the blue jersey.
The same Kamna was instrumental in Hindley’s ride into pink on Saturday after he dropped back from the breakaway to act as the perfect relay for his leader at the very moment he stuck the knife into Carapaz’s chances.

'There's the crack! Carapaz is suffering!' - Watch the moment that changed the Giro

But for all Bora’s brilliance, it’s hard to fault Ineos Grenadiers who, if anything, were perhaps guilty of a little complacency in Stage 20. Understandably. Having been given a free ride from Bora on Friday, the Grenadiers were seemingly left off the hook again in the Dolomites as Mikel Landa’s Bahrain Victorious team took over the lion’s share of pacing in the pack as they looked to, well, it’s not quite sure what they were after: a stage win for escapee Domen Novak? The pink jersey for Landa? In the end, they failed in both after fully committing to neither.
Had Landa possessed the same punch in his legs as Hindley – and had Pello Bilbao not faded so soon after Santiago Buitrago and Wout Poels went off the back on the Passo Fedaia – then perhaps Slovenia’s Novak would have got the call to drop back around the same time as Kamna eased up from the breakaway.
One can only presume that Landa was not feeling confident. For the 26-year-old Novak was soon riding clear of the chasers on the steepest part of the climb in pursuit of lone leader Alessandro Covi, who clung on for a superb win for UAE Team Emirates as the drama unfolded behind.
As Bahrain faded and Hindley lost all but Kelderman, Ineos appeared to be in rude health. Ben Tulett, Jonathan Castroviejo and Pavel Sivakov were all present and correct for Carapaz, while even Ben Swift had been able to lend a hand on the earlier parts of the last climb.
When the impressive Sivakov took over the reins and upped the tempo, it looked like job-done for Ineos as the peripheral GC riders were quickly despatched leaving just the seemingly unmoveable podium trio together, plus a plucky Hugh Carthy holding on.
Everything would be decided on the streets of Verona after all, with the previous three weeks taking their toll and no one capable of making the difference.

'What an incredible ride!' - Wiggins reacts to Hindley and Stage 20 at the finish line

But it was just as Sivakov peeled off after his last big effort that Hindley put in his initial acceleration to jettison Landa and go clear with Carapaz. Even then the gut instinct was that the Ecuadorian had things under control. The liaison with Kamna, however, saw the pendulum swing in the German team’s favour.
“It was absolutely amazing – everything worked out perfectly, it couldn’t be better,” Kamna said after his role in putting Hindley in pink. “I wanted to join the break and then I was waiting until about three-and-a-half to go then I did one really hard pull – like all out, what I had – and then Carapaz was dropped and Jai could take a lot of time. I was a bit surprised but on the other hand I was super-happy about it. For us it was the dream scenario.”
Kamna’s job didn’t end the moment Hindley danced up those final hairpins of the Passo Fedaia. The 25-year-old put the sandbags on Carapaz’s back wheel before – in a move that would admittedly never win him a fairplay award – coming ahead of the struggling Ineos rider and feathering the brakes as the road bottlenecked with roaring tifosi.

'I'll die for the jersey tomorrow!' - Hindley ready to do everything to seal Giro victory

Little did it matter – the damage had already been done. Bora put in a textbook performance one day after we all questioned their tactical nous. As for Ineos, they clearly missed the calming presence and experience of the departed Richie Porte, who could have made the difference. Perhaps the Australian’s withdrawal on Friday was the real turning point in the GC battle.
In any case, with Hindley climbing the Passo Fedaia quicker than Marco Pantani in 1998, it’s hard to see what Ineos Grenadiers or Carapaz could have done differently on the penultimate day to stop their rival’s inexorable march into pink.
Rather than putting socks on centipedes, Hindley has successfully managed to force his critics to put a sock in it. Mission accomplished on the Marmolada: the Giro's strongest rider will now make history for Australia on Sunday after burying his demons in the Dolomites.
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