Hayman all set for Flanders
With his form arriving at the right time, we catch up with Classics stalwart Mathew Hayman ahead of Sunday’s Tour of Flanders.
By Richard Simpson
Last Updated: 29/03/13 3:22pm
With his form arriving at just the right time, Classics stalwart Mathew Hayman is looking forward to Sunday’s Tour of Flanders and is delighted to be riding the races he loves.
The Australian has looked strong every time he’s tackled the cobbles in 2013, a feat made even more impressive given that he has bounced back from a serious injury which could have wrecked his spring campaign.
Breaking a rib and puncturing his lung in a seemingly innocuous crash at the Tour of Qatar hasn’t stopped Hayman battling it out at the sharp end of the one-day Classics so far – and most recently saw him take third place at Dwars Door Vlaanderen.
Speaking from the team’s base in Belgium as ‘De Ronde’ fever begins to sweep the nation, the 34-year-old confirmed: “I feel pretty good. It seems like things have come together.
“We started working last year on coming into form for these races. We were already making decisions at the end of 2012 over what was going to be best for this Classics season.”
Back to his best
Standing on the podium in Waregem completed an impressive return for Hayman, who admits that the preparation period for the big one-day races has not been easy.
“There have been ups and downs along the way,” he admitted, “namely my crash in Qatar, being out with the lung for a while and only just getting the go ahead to go to the Tenerife training camp.
"Going there really put the icing on the cake for me and moved my form along well. I think that showed that when I came back for Dwars Door Vlaanderen.
"It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster but I’m happy the form has come at the right time and hopefully over the next two weekends we can get a result.
“It was nice to be on the podium [in Waregem]. Obviously we were trying to win the race, but then again it could have easily been a fourth or a fifth. I was feeling good so there’s a little bit of a ‘what if’ about the result, but it’s done now.
"The two races last weekend (E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem) showed that we are there or thereabouts as a team. We’ve got a really group of riders here, and we just need to convert our chances into something big.”
Despite impressive displays of consistency thus far, the team have yet to cross the line first this Spring. “At the end of the day we’re supposed to win races,” said Hayman. “Especially on this team - people expect nothing less.
“Everyone’s seen that this team can train riders really well and get riders in good form – especially when you see how the rest of the team is riding at stage races like Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico.
"I don’t want to make excuses, but it’s so hard to crack it when you come up against a [Peter] Sagan or a Fabian [Cancellara]. That said, I guess other riders are talking about that when they come up against a Richie Porte or a Chris Froome!”
Seizing the moment
Luck and chance are always key factors in the Classics but there is no escaping the form that is needed to be in a winning position. Hayman feels that a big part of being successful is not letting a tough turn of events impact your race.
He explains: “In E3 I felt really good and I was able to follow [Tom] Boonen and Fabian on a couple of occasions. I felt like I was going really well and then, as Boonen did on the Oude-Kwaremont, I just had a few bad minutes. The rest of the day I felt fine but during that one climb it seemed like I hit every rock there was and I was going nowhere. That decides your day. Luckily G (Geraint Thomas) was feeling good at that point and we were represented in that group.
“It’s a big case on Sunday where – you’re going to have a bad climb or a moment somewhere - but you need to keep the morale up and keep pushing through. Everybody somewhere along the line is going to have that five or 10 minutes and you just have to hope that yours isn’t the deciding five minutes of the six hours.”
The Classics season has seen a number of strong teams come to the fore as well as a handful of star riders, including the likes of Cancellara and Sagan, who will carry the tag of favourites into Sunday.
With Team Sky able to play a number of cards in each race instead of relying solely on one team leader, Hayman weighs up the situation.
“You can have a team of eight guys all up there and it only takes one other guy to jump out ahead and win the race. It’s good that we’re all at a high level and all there helping and pushing each other.
"I’d prefer to be in our situation than some teams who just have one rider that has any chance of winning. If that rider has a puncture or bad luck then the whole team is taken out of the race. So it’s a nice position we're in but we still have to make the difference somewhere. That means using those numbers and the strengths we have in the right way.
“I don’t think so far we’ve been quite able to capitalise on that. A classic example of that would be Gent-Wevelgem. We didn’t want to tow the sprinters back to the front but having only Bernie [Eisel] in a group of 13 riders wasn’t ideal when we had six riders in the group behind.”
With a teamtalk and a gameplan in place, all that remains now are the final preparations before Sunday’s showpiece.
“On Friday we’re going to go out onto the course and have a look around. I’ve done it a thousand times but it’s always good to get out there. Then on Saturday we’ll have a nice easy ride to check over the equipment and make sure the bikes are exactly how we want them. It is a big day but it’s just the same as any other race in a way.”
If you want to learn more about the Tour of Flanders, take a look at our introductory video HERE, and viewers in the UK can watch two-hour highlights of the race from 1900 on Sunday on Sky Sports 2 HD, as well as on the move with Sky Go.