It's the most thrilling duel in this Giro so far.
Richard Carapaz has twice thought he was the king of the tour.
On the mountain stage to Blockhaus, he and Romain Bardet and Mikel Landa surpassed the group of favorites.
The trio of oldies then dawdled and made it possible for a small group around Jai Hindley to catch up.
Hindley won the sprint for the stage win.
A week later, the Australian repeated the feat.
It was only about second place in the stage behind solo winner Simon Yates.
But again Hindley was better than Carapaz in hand-to-hand combat.
Previously, he had caught the breakaway in the Ineos dress with an impressive energy performance.
This makes the Bora professional hopeful for the last Giro week.
“We still have a lot to do.
We didn't come here to play," he said in his laconic way. Carapaz has already learned to fear him - and is trying to help.
He participated in intermediate sprints for bonus seconds.
"You have to seize every opportunity that presents itself," said Carapaz.
This could also be explained as the life motto of the climber from the Ecuadorian Andes.
Because cycling is not as widespread in his homeland as in neighboring Colombia.
He went there to develop himself but had to hold his own against the many local talents and also against their sporting directors.
Careers' careers depend extremely on the development of those being cared for, and regional ties weigh heavily.
In Europe with Team Movistar, Carapaz has long played second, third or even fourth fiddle to the likes of Nairo Quintana, Alejandro Valverde and Mikel Landa.
Nevertheless, he won the 2019 Giro as an outsider, surprising the stalking favorites Primoz Roglic and Vincenzo Nibali.
Wait, gamble and attack
Then the Ineos team committed him, also more as a substitute captain and complement to the phalanx of tour winners Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal.
He did the job without a murmur.
However, he did not win his biggest victory in the colors of Ineos, but for his home country Ecuador.
He became Olympic champion in Tokyo.
At the Giro, Carapaz is the undisputed Ineos captain for the first time.
But that doesn’t automatically lead him to a tour win.
His team is thinner than usual at Grand Tours.
And with Hindley he is challenged by someone who does not get the sole role of captain every day.
Bora took him as part of a trio alongside Emanuel Buchmann and Wilco Kelderman.
At the Giro 2020, when he broke through with second place, he wasn't even co-captain but a protected rider, in the shadow of then-captain Wilco Kelderman.
He stepped out of this shadow through performance.
He was trained in Australia's junior academy.
"We were a lot of strong guys back then, a wealth of talent, and a lot of it made it to the pro level," Hindley recalls.
Back then, he wasn't exactly considered the strongest of them all.
Lucas Hamilton (today Team BikeExchange) and Ben O'Connor (today AG2R) of the same age as well as Michael Storer (today Groupama FDJ), who was a year younger, received their first professional contracts a season before Hindley.
In the meantime, however, the latecomer has surpassed his former training colleagues.
This Giro is his big chance.
He already knows how to win stages.
How to get on the podium has been known to him for two years.
What is missing to win the Giro?
"You just have to have the best legs," says Hindley with a smirk.
The saying could also come from Carapaz.
Two cycling pragmatists meet.
Two pragmatists who have a high level of racing intelligence and are good at balancing waiting, gambling and attacking.Keywords: