Mathew Hayman has been dubbed the people’s champion as he marks the last race of a pro career that has spanned 20 years at the Tour Down Under this week.
The 40-year-old has been the subject of gracious home support at the WorldTour opener, which Mitchelton-Scott team-mate Daryl Impey has entered as defending title holder.
“I’ve always loved racing and you have to race every day at this tour. I’m not just riding around here, it’s not a parade,” Hayman said.
“Maybe that will happen the last time up Willunga [on the final stage], but until then we’re looking for seconds. Every day something happens, and we’ve got to go back to the drawing board, plan for the next day and try and get Daryl or someone else, Cam [Meyer] has won this race before, up there. A stage win would be a good start, and obviously we want to go for the overall.”
Hayman admits the immediate reality of retirement hasn’t hit him yet after two decades in in the sport competing for Rabobank, then Team Sky and for the past five seasons ‘home’ outfit Mitchelton-Scott.
“It’s all so normal and nothing has really changed but it’s been mentioned a lot. I forget actually sometimes that not the whole peloton knows I am retiring. It gets mentioned daily amongst the [Mitchelton-Scott] boys, with the banter about how old I am, how long I’ve been around for, but this is for a lot of people just a normal race. The other guys don’t really care that I’m retiring,” Hayman laughed.
Speaking before the start of stage two on Wednesday, the 2016 Paris-Roubaix winner, Australia’s second ever, was humble.
“I’m blown away,” he said of the applause. “I never started this sport to inspire anybody, I did It for myself. Since Roubaix, whenever I come back here, it’s pretty nice to have people approach you and tell you how they’ve been moved by a sporting performance or inspired to ride. It’s a nice by-product of the career.”
Hayman plans to move into an advisory role with Mitchelton-Scott from February and hopes his knowledge, especially of the Classics, will aid the likes of Luke Durbridge and Matteo Trentin.
“It takes so many years to learn those races and it’s so close to me now, in three to five years I might not have that feeling of what it was like to be in the bunch anymore,” Hayman said.
“Hopefully I can transfer some of that knowledge really quickly and help out some of the young guys, and maybe with a Luke or Trentin we can get some results.”