What’s in the water? Two of the world’s best cyclists hail from WA – and here’s why

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

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

It’s nothing short of a triumph, but maybe there’s more to come.

And Hindley isn’t the only Western Australian prospect.

Western 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 fourth in his Tour de France debut, just three minutes from a podium finish.

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

And WA’s own pioneers can set the tone for the next generation of future champions.

This is ‘where dreams begin’

Retired cyclist Graeme Brown emphasized the importance of Hindley’s win in setting up young cyclists in WA.

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

At a velodrome, teenagers lined up holding on to the railing on their bicycles.
Junior cyclists will strive to reach the lofty heights of Hindley’s achievements.ABC News: Cason Ho

“Kids look at it and go…maybe I can too. That’s where dreams begin, and no doubt Jai’s dream began in the same way.”

Brown also enjoyed the fact that the sport was now getting more media coverage in WA.

“They’re actually talking about cycling. Just to bring out that awareness for cycling,” he said.

“It’s huge for WA.”

Man in blue button-up shirt listens carefully to another person talking.
Graeme Brown has two Olympic gold metals and several world titles.ABC News: Cason Ho

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 began his journey, training at the Perth Velodrome alongside other hopeful riders.

The more than a century old club has already received a significant boost in traffic since Hindley’s win, according to club 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 huddle around a rack of bicycles.
The Midland Cycle Club is home to both young and experienced riders.ABC News: Cason Ho

“WA has a good track record when it comes to providing quality cyclists.”

‘Most important, have fun’

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

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

Man looks intently at a trophy cabinet full of LED lighting.
Mark Williamson says the Midland Cycle Club is home to a long family tree of cycling legends.ABC News: Cason Ho

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

To begin with, Mr. Williamson suggested one thing.

“Just have fun.”

Young boys and girls cycle in a uniform line around a velodrome.
Smiles and laughter abounded in 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 level of fatigue that words cannot describe,” said Brown, who has competed in the Giro himself.

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