Cycling isn’t short of early 20-somethings winning bike races right now, and Ineos Grenadiers have another one who is backing himself to win big in 2021.
In just his second full season for the British outfit, Ethan Hayter is targeting a number of results on the road as well as three Olympic golds on the track in the summer.
The 22-year-old is expected to form part of Great Britain’s men’s team pursuit squad, as well as hoping to convince selectors to elect him to ride the omnium and Madison in Tokyo.
Last September, the Londoner won his first professional road race, when he bookended a very successful spell in Italy by winning the Giro dell’Appennino one-day race.
In the weeks prior, he had finished on the podium at the Memorial Marco Pantani, Giro della Toscana, and recorded two seconds and a fifth place in the Coppi e Bartali stage race.
Beginning this season, Hayter finished third in the Etoile de Bessèges final day 10.7km time trial in early February, and then looked in good form at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad last Saturday before crashing in the final kilometres.
And he told Cycling Weekly that observers should be expecting to see him competing for honours this spring and beyond. “I’d like to win some races,” he said. “I’m here to learn but I’m here to perform as well and I like to think I am capable of doing pretty well.
“I expect to be winning [races this year]. I hope so, anyway. When I can learn, I will, and there’s no pressure to perform, except the pressure I put on myself.”
Put to him that few onlookers have talked him up for big road results so soon in his career, he deadpanned: “I’m not complaining about that. I don’t need nor look for the attention.
"I’m not on Instagram every day reading what people think but I am quietly confident in my ability.”
His results last autumn in Italy came just over three weeks after he had broken his back at Milano-Torino, an injury he says “sounds worse than it was. It wasn’t that bad.” His form there acted as proof to himself that he can already figure at the pointy end of races.
“I wasn’t in the best shape and was suffering at Pantani, but I sprinted too early there and came second," he recalled. "I thought ‘f**k, I’ve just got pretty close to a win in one-day pro race.
“From there we went to Coppi e Bartali and I finished second on stage one and stage two (in the team time trial – ed) so that was three seconds in a row. I was like, ‘it’s got to be coming soon!’
“Then the day that Jhonatan [Narváez] won the stage, it was a really hard day and I was in the small group at finish. It was a massive confidence boost and me realise it was a good sign.
“To then win Appennino, it was so nice to break that run. Getting second a few times is nice, but then after that you don’t want to do it again. It becomes a curse. Everyone’s super happy for you but personally you just want to get that win.”
Despite possessing a fast finish, Hayter says the hillier parcours favour him. “I’m not a sprinter-sprinter and against [Caleb] Ewan, [Pascal] Ackermann and [Sam] Bennett, I would be following the wheels. My peak power is not that impressive, although my 20 second sprint is pretty good.
“I need a hard race and a hard finish and I can be right up there. I really enjoyed the Ardennes last year, and those Italians races really suit me too.
“They are like something you race on the track: under and over threshold efforts, hard races with spikes. That’s where I go well.”
Hayter plans to do plenty of road racing before refocusing his attention to the track, with the track events at the rescheduled Olympics starting on August 2.
“The road makes me better on the track and I want to do a lot of it before switching mainly to the track in June,” he said. “I don’t want to be completely alien to the track and then go to the Olympics.
“It looks like the Games will go ahead and it’s exciting. The other track boys are training well and while we know we have been a bit off at the Worlds, we have done some testing with new stuff and we know how we’ll go.”
But before then, the Classics have just got underway. His peer Tom Pidcock rode to an impressive third-place at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne on Sunday, and Hayter is hoping to match or surpass him in the coming weeks.
He added: “The Classics are about learning and experiencing stuff. It’s a cliché but tactically it’s massive. You win and lose Classics through tactical decisions.
“Physically, there’s not much difference between a lot of the guys, but you have to know when to be at the front, where the race can split, when to use your efforts.
“As a team we’re going in with an open approach, with a few guys all aiming for a good result if it falls their way. We’re not racing against other and instead using one another.”
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