Ethan Hayter is encouraged with his second-place finish in the prologue event to the Tour de la Provence, surprising himself with his level of performance around the 7.1km route at Berre-L’Étang.
Hayter's surprise would ordinarily be misplaced. After all, the 23-year-old became the British time trial champion at the end of the 2021 season, having already won the Tour of Norway and secured stage wins at the Tour of Britain, Volta ao Algarve, Vuelta a Andalucía and Settimana Coppi e Bartali.
Despite this, he clarified he has only recently recovered from Covid-19, which negatively impacted his pre-season preparations. Consequently, Hayter's surprise is justified, and he certainly enjoyed riding the course, too.
“I was quite surprised with my second place,” Hayter said.
“I’m happy, I only had two weeks of training since I had Covid. It wasn’t my best performance, so I’m happy with second place and I’m still improving.
"You could go at full speed on this course. The technical parts could go by quickly."
Hayter's Ineos Grenadiers team-mate Filippo Ganna naturally scored the fastest time in the Tour de la Provence prologue, crossing the finish line 12 seconds ahead of the Briton. While Hayter realises competing with Ganna is always a difficult task, he also understands the world time trial champion is at a level he is aspiring to reach.
“I had a strong feeling he’d be better today," Hayter added, "and I think he deserved it. He’s a great team-mate. Of course, he’s an example. When you have the best time triallist in the world in your team, there’s obviously a lot to learn. He’s a great role model.”
Stage one of the Tour de la Provence begins today (Friday), heading from Istres to Les-Saintes-Maries-de-La-Mer. Hayter is among the favourites to win the GC, but he suggested the focus is on securing Elia Viviani his first win at the team in the opening stage sprint, while Richard Carapaz is best placed for the long climb on the final day.
"We’ve got a good team here, it’s going to be a good week to get back into racing for me.
“There’s a flat stage tomorrow, maybe with some wind, and hopefully it will be a sprint for Elia, we’ll see how the finish goes. The day after is kind of unsure, it could be quite hard or it could be a sprint like last year.
"And for the last stage we have Carapaz, who is probably the favourite for a long climb like that. We’ll see what we can do, and we’ll have some fun.”
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