Ethan Hayter flies his parents to Australia for the World Championships

British rider has bounced back from Covid to be one of the spearheads of a strong youthful squad

Ethan Hayter
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The road World Championships have presented all kinds of logistical issues, what with them taking place in Wollongong, Australia, on the other side of the world. Some nations have decided to not even send their riders, such is the magnitude of the trip.

If it's difficult for teams and riders to get to Australia, it's doubly difficult for those wanting to show their support, for fans, friends and family. This problem is magnified once more if you have multiple people to cheer on.

That's the issue facing the Hayters, who have both Ethan and Leo competing in the road Worlds over the next week. Fortunately for them, Ethan has taken it upon himself to pay his parents plane tickets to Sydney, so there should be at least one Union Flag on the roadside.

They might just be there to witness history, too, as while the elite men's squad have been deprived of their figurehead in Tom Pidcock, there are still multiple options for the road race, while Ethan is one of the favourites for the time trial, and is in a quietly confident mood.

Speaking to the media on Friday evening Australian time, Hayter said that while it was a "shame" that Pidcock wasn't there, the GB team are ready to be quite aggressive in next Sunday's road race.

"It's a real shame, Tom was going to be the main leader here," he explained. "We understand his decision, he has to do what's best for him. As for the rest of us, we have cards to play. It's quite exciting really, we have no pressure on us to do anything. 

"Anything we do is a bonus, so we can be quite aggressive. We have a really similar team to last year, and if you look at how young all of us are, apart from Swifty [Ben Swift] and Luke [Rowe], we have a lot of years ahead to race together, and that's half the thing here, building that team bond."

The course for the road race is a hilly one, with over 4000 metres of climbing, but spread over 260km of racing it should not prove to be too hard for someone of Hayter's characteristics.

With riders like Fred Wright and Jake Stewart also in the GB team, it is a tantalising squad with multiple options. While all eyes are on the favourites, a squad like GB could take advantage, slip away, or overwhelm with numbers.

"The way the Worlds is raced isn't normal," Hayter said. "There aren't radios and people aren't so used to racing together. It's also a really hard course. There will be groups going up the road before the favourites attack probably, because it is quite a hard finishing circuit. If we get as many riders as possible in the front, that's the way to get results, with numbers.

"I think it will be quite similar to last year. [Julian] Alaphilippe, [Wout] Van Aert... and [Tadej] Pogačar has been looking quite good as well. We'll throw a few Brits in there and we'll see what happens."

Ethan Hayter

(Image credit: Getty Images)

As well as his chances in the road race, Hayter goes into this Sunday's elite time trial with the chance of pulling off an impressive result. The 34.2km course is rolling, never too flat, and so could suit a rider of his characteristics. It is not an outright power course, suiting two-time defending champion Filippo Ganna, nor is it hilly enough to favour Pogačar above everyone.

"It does suit me really well," he admitted. "The cornering is going to be super important. In [Tour de] Romandie, for example, I was super good in the corners, in the prologue. If you're on a really good day you nail all the corners, and sometimes you're slightly out of the rhythm. It's slightly rolling all the time, you never really get into a proper rhythm, which should be interesting.

"I think Ganna usually turns up for the big events. They're staying in the same hotel with us, and I think he's pretty up for it. Remco [Evenepoel] is Remco, hopefully he's tired from the Vuelta [a España], and then the Stefan Küng and Bissegger have been really good in TTs too this year."

While Hayter is ready to admit that he really wants a medal or even to win this weekend, and seems confident of doing so, he is also prepared to treat this as a learning experience - he is still 23, after all.

"With racing so much in the year, it kind of takes the pressure off when it comes to an event like this," he says. "It was kinda the same with the Vuelta, it was a massive shame to leave, but it was my first Grand Tour, and if I just rode round and got experience, that was good. Obviously I'm quite competitive, so I wouldn't have been happy with that myself. 

"It's a big opportunity to come here and race. I really want a medal on the weekend or even win, we'll see how that goes. If I don't, it's not the end of the world either."

Ethan Hayter

(Image credit: Getty Images)

After spending a few days in the white jersey at the Vuelta at the beginning of the race, Hayter was forced to head home early after testing positive for Covid. Having recovered and followed a reduced training plan, he believes he is now ready for the Worlds; he might actually have benefited from racing less over the last few weeks.

"I was really lucky to have any symptoms, maybe we caught it early and I rested properly instead of trying to train through it, so that helped," he said. "It was quite tough to leave the Vuelta, and I didn't want to give anyone else Covid, so I was just sat on the sofa on my own a lot. 

"I've looked towards the positives, and I've done a bit more TT work, and come into the worlds a bit fresher than I would have been. I'd have been knackered otherwise. I think I've done alright in the circumstances."

Unlike his rivals, notably Evenepoel, he does not have 21 hard days of racing in his legs. It remains to be seen whether this is helpful or not, but it is an interesting point of difference.

While the Hayters cheer on Ethan, and his brother Leo, who will be riding the under-23 events, they will surely also be supporting the rest of the British team.

Many of them having been racing together for years, especially Fred Wright, Ethan and Jake Stewart. Rivals on the WorldTour, they can come together to support each other in the national team, something that still seems strange to the young riders at the top of the sport.

"Me and Fred have been racing since we were really young, and we still live together in Manchester," Hayter said. Last year Fred was in the Tour [de France], and me, Tom [Pidcock] and Matt Walls were at the Olympics, and they won gold medals. 

"It's really weird. Jake was in the same group as us too. It must be good for the young riders coming through to see. I hadn't seen Fred for a while and then we met in the bunch at the Vuelta, which is quite strange.

"We're not scared of the races, and Fred has obviously been quite aggressive. He knows he deserves to be there, he was top five at loads of Vuelta stages. He'll win some races soon, and we're just really enjoying it."

They might be having fun, but this British squad is one of the most competitive ever, and might just have multiple chances at the Worlds over the next week. Ones to watch.

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Adam Becket
Senior news and features writer

Adam is Cycling Weekly’s senior news and feature writer – his greatest love is road racing but as long as he is cycling on tarmac, he's happy. Before joining Cycling Weekly he spent two years writing for Procycling, where he interviewed riders and wrote about racing, speaking to people as varied as Demi Vollering to Philippe Gilbert. Before cycling took over his professional life, he covered ecclesiastical matters at the world’s largest Anglican newspaper and politics at Business Insider. Don't ask how that is related to cycling.