BERRE L’ÉTANG, France (VN) – A winner at every stage race bar one that he started in 2021 with Team Ineos Grenadiers, Londoner Ethan Hayter ended the year with no fewer than 10 victories.
Moments after he’d finished second Thursday behind teammate Filippo Ganna in the opening prologue time trial of the Tour de la Provence, the 23-year-old Briton reflected on his “ridiculous” 2021 season and on his hopes for this year.
He’s scheduled to race a fuller WorldTour program in 2022 that is set to include Paris-Nice, Milan-Sanremo, the Tour of Flanders, the Ardennes Classics and, he hopes, a grand tour.
VeloNews caught up with him in his season debut in France:
VeloNews: Let’s start with your thoughts on that opening prologue performance. You can’t be disappointed with second behind world champion Filippo Ganna.
EH: It was pretty good. I’m surprised to have finished second, to be honest. It wasn’t my best run. I had COVID in January and I’ve only had a couple of weeks of training so I’m quite happy with second, actually. I was just a bit rusty in terms of knowing what I was capable of. Also, I maybe went a little bit too easy in places, although I was going quite fast. Because it’s just my first race, I took the corners quite cautiously, but 10 seconds is a lot in 7km. I was just feeling my way back in and, like I said, I’m really happy with second and with another win for Filippo.
VN: Are you just looking to rediscover your racing legs this week or do you have personal goals here at Provence?
EH: There are no expectations on me, but I always try my best and try to win every race where I have the opportunity, or help whoever’s the best-placed in our team to win. We can win each one of the stages in this race so it’s gonna be a fun week I think.
VN: What are your reflections on last year? You had a sensational season.
EH: I think that’s the only way to put it. I think I had 10 wins. After the Étoile de Bessèges at the very start of the year, I won a stage in every stage race I rode. It was ridiculous. I’m hopeful I can carry on with that kind of form this year.
VN: You must have surprised yourself?
EH: I think I surprised myself and everybody else. No one predicted that. It was a lot of fun.
VN: Turning to this year, how do you improve on that? What’s the plan?
EH: I only did five days at WorldTour level last year, which was a really good thing because I built up lots of confidence and won lots of races. Yet also I was fourth in Plouay, which was a six-hour race against WorldTour level riders, so I’m looking forward to doing more races like that this year and to keep building basically.
VN: Will you get more chances to lead?
EH: I probably need to lead in fewer races, actually, because in most of the races I did last year, I was team leader in what were slightly lower-level events. That gave me the opportunity to win so much, but I think I’ll still get my opportunities this year and, clearly, my form’s not too bad for February.
VN: Is there a grand tour on your schedule this year?
EH: Yeah, I definitely think I will ride one, although I don’t know yet which one it will be.
VN: Do you have a preference?
EH: I don’t know. I don’t think it’ll be the Giro. I think it will be one of the other two depending on the team’s goals and how I do in the next couple of months. But I don’t think there’s a bad grand tour to start off with, is there? Whichever one it is, I’m excited for the season.
VN: In terms of the next few weeks, what lies ahead for you?
EH: I do this race and then I go straight to the Tour of Algarve, which is back-to-back with this one. It’s not ideal prep going straight into another stage race after this one, but it’s good to get the racing in [that] I need. Then I’ll go either to “opening weekend” or Paris-Nice. I’m definitely doing Paris-Nice, but we’re not sure if I’ll do “opening weekend” as well. After the setback of COVID, I might need to rest after two stage races in a row, and Paris-Nice is more important for the team than “opening weekend.” Then it’ll hopefully be Milan-Sanremo, the Tour of Flanders, and the Ardennes Classics. It’s an exciting prospect as we’ve got a super strong team for those races with the likes of Filippo and Tom Pidcock.