By Sophie Smith
Mathew Hayman returned to racing in Australia last week having cut his 2012 season short in an effort to recover from hip surgery and be fully ready for another Classics tilt in 2013.
The Sky road captain animated the final stages of Australia's national road championship on Sunday, eventually finishing 23rd, in what was his first race back since July's Tour of Poland.
Sky is approaching the Classics with increased rigour this season and has embarked on a different training programme in an effort to claim a major one-day title. Most of its squad in December attended a training camp in Majorca, Spain, under the tutelage of sports scientist Tim Kerrison, before travelling to Belgium with sports director and 2001 Paris-Roubaix champion Servais Knaven for early course reconnaissance.
"The team are really good at getting guys fit, we've seen that in the last few years, so the training techniques they use are really good," Hayman told Cycling
Weekly after the men's national road race that Luke Durbridge won.
"They won the Tour de France, they've got a lot of good GC riders and they could well have just said, ‘Oh look, we're going to be a GC team from now on'. That's something we do really well with the Colombians, with (Chris) Froome, with (Bradley) Wiggins, you know, they could possibly win two or three Grand Tours in the next year and a half. But no, they've said we're under performing in the Classics, we've got good guys and why are they not winning Classics?
"I'm getting older and to be that motivated to go out training and have a team that wants to put effort in and keep the riders motivated, giving new training, that's nice. This year is my 14th(as a professional) and I can't wait to get out and try a new training session. I'd hate to be stuck in a rut just going through the motions."
Hayman had surgery on a torn labrum in August, which followed an Achilles complaint that caused him pain after Tirreno-Adriatico in March. The Australian, who finished eighth in Paris-Roubaix last year, and 10th in 2011, had the Classics in mind when he decided to cut his 2012 season short and undergo surgery.
"That's probably harder than racing or struggling through races is having an injury and being at home, it's really tough," Hayman said.
"When you look at the Classics being March and April and you count back when you need to be doing the most amount of training, which is November and December, you can't jeopardise that because you want to ride the world championships or something.
"It was a decision we made to cut the season short, which as a rider you never want to do, you prefer to have an operation off-season, but when you look at the big picture I think I did the right thing."
Spaniard Juan Antonio Flecha has previously led Sky's Classics bid but his exit to Vacansoleil- DCM will arguably create more opportunities for those still on the British team's books. Flecha finished four spots ahead of Hayman at Paris-Roubaix last year in fourth.
"It's a funny thing leadership. We'll see," Hayman said when asked if he may put his hand up for one of the cobblestone races.
"Roubaix didn't go as anybody in the team wanted. If you look at it, half way through the race we were in a really commanding position and it kind of all fell apart. Hopefully we can sit down closer to the time, and things will be more clear when we've raced together. If Edvald (Boasson Hagen) and Geraint Thomas are a cut above then I don't have a problem riding for them but I've also been in the top 10 the last two Roubaixs.
"I've got a little bit of a thing about that race but that being said you have to have a bit of luck, awesome form, and maybe if the guys said, ‘Yep, it is your turn,' I'm not too slow normally at the finish. I've had a fair bit of experience but it's a bit hard for me to stand here in January and say I want leadership in this or this Classic. It might not even be. An injury could have me out before we even get there, so I'm not going to jump up and down now. But come race day and if I have the form I've had the last two years then maybe I'll put my foot down a bit more."
Hayman returned to Australia from Europe in December and described his training as "solid" in the lead-up to this month's Tour Down Under, which Sky is sending its Classics squad including Thomas, Boasson Hagen, Bernhard Eisel, Chris Sutton, Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe to.
The Classics group - including riders and team staff - will travel and race together in the lead-up to its target one-day races and plans to forgo some lead-up events for training camps.
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