Leo Hayter, Cycling Weekly's rising star of 2022, talks through his season in the spotlight

We caught up with the winner of the "Baby Giro" to hear all about the win in Italy and his dream move to Ineos Grenadiers

Leo Hayter
(Image credit: SW Pix)

Leo Hayter was born to race a bike. Brother of Ineos Grenadier’s star Ethan Hayter, Leo has had quite the year, ending with him joining his brother in the professional ranks at the Dave Brailsford managed team in 2023.

It’s tempting to see Hayter’s under-23 Giro d’Italia, or “Baby Giro”, victory in May in the colours of the Axel Merckx-run Hagens Berman Axeon team, as the catalyst but he explains that the WorldTour was already coming knocking before then. 

“At the end of last year, I had a lot of interest,” he says. “Although it kind of went quiet for a bit as I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. Then it wasn’t until after the Giro that I had real offers on the table.” 

Hayter dominated the Baby Giro in a style that showed all the tell-tale signs of future greatness. On the way to the overall title he took two stage victories, including a ruthless win on the 6% slopes of Santa Caterina Valfurva by just under five minutes from Romain Gregoire of France.

Winning by that amount of time is a feat rarely seen in modern cycling. Hayter explained it's certainly the highlight of his young career so far. 

“It’s hard not to forget a day like that, it was kind of crazy,” he recalls. “I can’t imagine that will happen again in my career. It certainly doesn’t happen often.” 

After taking the Maglia Rosa on the previous day, Hayter remembers the surreal feeling of being solo up the road in the high mountains with the race almost won. Suffering from dehydration, he explained that he wasn’t sure if he could pull it off.

“I couldn’t think straight that day as I was dehydrated. It was just surreal though, I didn’t expect it all, especially as I had taken pink the day before with a late attack,” he explains. 

“If I’m honest, I didn’t expect to make it over the main climbs with the front riders, then suddenly I was solo in the valley and the time gap just kept going up by 30 seconds. I was just like, 'S**t', I didn’t want to think about it at the time but I knew I’d won the race, and it wasn’t just about the stage win anymore.”


Leo Hayter wins at the Baby Giro

(Image credit: Courtesy of Hagens Berman Axeon)

His performance in Italy suggested a rider brimming with confidence, but Hayter says he was actually doubting himself after suffering with illness at the start of the year.

“I can sometimes let myself get knocked down a bit like that. It then takes me a little while to get back into the swing of things after a setback,” he says. “But when I’m back and I’m on it I’m soon doing all the right things.” 

Hayter was certainly “on it” in Italy before returning to the UK and successfully defending his title as under-23 British national time trial champion. After suffering with illness again post Tour de l’Avenir it wasn’t long before Hayter was back firing on all cylinders on the biggest stage - the World Championships. 

Hayter took bronze in the under 23 time trial in Australia but admitted he was left wondering what might have been. 

“I wasn’t really able to train properly between l’Avenir and the time trial. I’d been sick and didn’t know what to expect,” he says. “I wasn’t going that well so to come third was nice. Although I was really happy to take third, I also thought ‘f**k it! If this time trial had been a month and a half earlier it could have been something bigger.”

As he explains that he doesn’t train as regularly for time trials as other riders, Hayter told us that the thought of gaining access to the world's best equipment with Ineos Grenadiers fills him with the belief that he can push on in the discipline next year. 

He says: “Next year with more support on the time trial side of things and the best equipment in the world with Ineos, I think I should be able to improve on that a lot and be on top level in pro races.” 

This interview originally appeared in Cycling Weekly magazine on 1 December. Subscribe now and don't miss an issue in 2023. 

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