Tom Pidcock is Great Britain's leader for Sunday's road race at the Flanders World Championships, his team-mate Ethan Hayter says, before adding GB have multiple other options within the squad, himself included, to try and deliver a first rainbow jersey since Mark Cavendish did in 2011.
While Hayter has steadily been transferring his track talents to making waves on the road since signing for Ineos Grenadiers, the recent Tour of Britain, where he went head-to-head and was narrowly out-juked by Wout van Aert, was arguably his most impressive tarmac performance yet.
"The Tour of Britain was massive, obviously," Hayter says two days before the road race. "Those guys [Van Aert, Alaphilippe] were coming into really good shape and I was there competing against them. I mean, it's quite fun as much it was a massive confidence boost."
He says, however, that the Bretagne Classic before that, where he came fourth, was better preparation as a one-dayer that's 260km in length.
"I was actually really good at the end of that race," he recalls. "If things had gone a bit differently I'd have been fighting for the win rather than for fourth place. So it's a massive confidence boost...and I think obviously, everyone knows, I think, Tom's the leader here, but it's gonna be really exciting."
Minutes earlier, Mark Cavendish had been more reticent to name an outright leader within the squad, which was pointed out to Hayter, the 23-year-old agreeing the team has strength in depth.
"Yeah he's completely right, we've got lots of options," he said. "And we can actually come into the race in lots of different ways. Obviously, if the race is right for Cav, he's shown he's one of the fastest guys in the world. So we'll see how the race unfolds because it's unknown, it's hard circuits and it just depends how [our rivals] race, how early the race starts, and how that works.
"I don't know where it's going to start, and with these kinds of Classics-style races, it's so important to be on the front foot, especially without race radios it's hard to know what's actually going on a lot of the time. If we can be on the front foot and in each situation have someone that can win the race in each group, then that makes life good for us."
As he's flourished this season, Hayter has at times been leader of his Ineos squad, which he says has taken some getting used to, but that he's yet to pick the brains of his experienced and successful team-mates at the British WorldTour outfit as to how to adapt to that role.
"I probably should," he admits. "You know things have happened so fast this year I've not really even caught my breath and looked back on any of it yet. So when I do finally have some proper time off I'll do some rebuilding and planning with the team."
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Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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