Hindley testing form ahead of Tour debut

Jai Hindley is happy to be finding his race legs again as the Australian cycling star targets the Tour de France.

Only the second Australian after Cadel Evans to win a Grand Tour will make his Tour de France debut this July, with Hindley's race schedule confirmed after months of speculation.

While Hindley is the reigning Giro d'Italia champion, the Tour route suits his skill set perfectly with its many climbing stages and lack of time trials.

Hindley is one of the biggest names at this week's Tour Down Under, but his priority is to be ready for July.

So Hindley was never going to contend for the overall Santos Tour win, instead testing his form on climbs during his first race of the year.

He was part of the key group that broke away near the end of stage two, finishing fifth, but was not strong enough to be in the three-rider attack that animated Friday's key Corkscrew climb in stage three.

"It's where I want to be - I'd like to be at the front of the group over Corkscrew, but I'm just happy to be realistic about it," Hindley said.

"If I want to be at my best shape in July, then being at my best shape in January probably isn't the best thing for that.

"It's a really high level here, as we're seeing, and each year it's getting harder and harder.

"I'm really happy where it's at - lots of room for improvement."

More than anything, the Tour Down Under gives Hindley a true sign of how his pre-season training has gone.

"It's a good indication of where I am. It's hard to really pinpoint where you are until you finally get into a race and do an effort like that," he said.

"You can do all the training you want, but when it comes to the race, it's a different story.

"I'm pretty happy where it's at."

The Tour ends on Sunday with the Mt Lofty summit finish and that could give Hindley another chance to test his climbing form.

"I'm really excited for the stage tomorrow, it's a bit of a different stage - they've not had that sort of finish before," he said.

"It's also a shorter stage, it will probably make for some aggressive racing. We'll look to take our oppportunities where we can.

"The form is not the best, but I will definitely look to see what I can do tomorrow - also to help the team."

After winning the Giro, the Bora-Hansgrohe team leader is at the peak of his career and he is rapt to be building towards his Tour de France debut.

"That's a massive dream come true for me and the whole calendar will be focussed towards that," he said.

"It's something I've always wanted to do ... it's pretty overwhelming.