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Ethan Hayter Q&A: The difficulties of being too good at too many things

Ineos Grenadiers' multi-dimensional Brit talks balancing road and track, bickering with his brother, and racing against Wout van Aert.

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It’s a tough life being Ethan Hayter.

As a track world champion, road time trialist extraordinaire, and stage-racing star, there are just too many races to pick from and too many races to try.

This year, Hayter backed up his breakout 2021 season to bring Ineos Grenadiers a Tour of Poland GC victory, score the British national team two track rainbow jerseys, narrowly miss the road worlds TT podium, and much more besides.

Also read: Hayter puts Hour Record attempt on the to-do list

After only recently turning 24 and with a two-year deal with Ineos Grenadiers in his pocket, the cycling world is Hayter’s oyster.

VeloNews caught up with the London-born multi-talent as he headed into the offseason. We talked road, track, arguing with his brother, and the season to come:

Hayter wore the Dauhpiné’s best young rider jersey for four stages this summer.

VeloNews: Ethan, congratulations on reaching the end of a spectacular season. Looking back over 2022, what are your main takeaways? 

Ethan Hayter: It’s been really, really good – but obviously, last year was pretty good as well.

I think it’s just been a bit of progression. You don’t really notice it until you look back I guess. There’s lots of things I’ve improved on.

I’ve won a lot fewer races this year, but it’s a different level as I’ve raced more WorldTour events. To win stuff like Poland when I wasn’t really 100 percent was really nice.

And I was even climbing really well in the Critérium du Dauphiné, which is a progression. If Wout van Aert hadn’t been there I might have won a stage or two [laughs], but sadly he was, and he had the edge on me. I was 15th overall as well, which obviously is nothing crazy, but it’s not bad for a ‘sprinter.’ It was a good week.

VN: You talked about your road season, but winning two gold medals at the recent track championships is a big deal! How does being good at both road and track impact your race selection and programming your calendar?

EH: I never really had a set race program this year, so we never really peaked for any particular race. It worked well, but I haven’t been able to have that extra one or two percent in my form in a few races. It meant maybe I didn’t win as much as possible or do my best performances.

I’d like to have a bit more structure next year. But it’s really difficult because there’s quite a lot of races – without being cocky – a lot of races that I think would be good to do and that would suit me. You have to pick and choose because if you do too much, you just end up average and you’re tired.

The words in Glasgow is definitely one for next year, but it’s going to be a bit of a tricky balancing act between road and track.

VN: Would you ever consider specializing in just road, or just track?

EH: If you get it right, the two can complement each other, but it’s easy not to get it right …

It would have been a lot easier this year if we went to the worlds and got our heads kicked in at the team pursuit for example, then I could just say ‘OK, I’ll park that for a bit,’ but we went and won.

I think it’s going to take some planning in future, because when you’re winning world titles you can’t stop doing it – especially as I enjoy as well. It’s not my job and I don’t get any money from doing it, but I enjoy it and it would be silly not to do it.

The team [Ineos Grenadiers] is quite flexible with giving time for track, but it depends what you’re asking to do. You need to find the right balance. If it detracts from your road performances, which it doesn’t need to do, it’s going to be a problem, but otherwise it’s fine. It seems to be working out well for me so far.

VN: You’re hard to pigeonhole as a road rider in that you can win in a lot of different races and parcours. Does your victory at the WorldTour-level Tour of Poland make you consider a GC future?

EH: I think there’s a lot of guys in that kind of category, and to enjoy it, you have to be excellent at it.

At the moment, I’m winning more from being punchier, and winning stages rather than GC. Even the Tour of Poland, in those punchy finishes, if there were fewer crashes, I could have won one of those. And I think it’s more fun doing what I’m doing with looking for stages than trying for GC.

Plus you’ve got to play to your strengths. You almost need to train to your strengths and be excellent at what you’re excellent at.

VN: Your 21-year-old brother Leo joins you at Ineos Grenadiers in 2023. How do you feel about having your younger sibling on the team? How’s your relationship with him?

It’s going to be funny next year I think. I realized this year, since we’ve been living together in Girona, that we’re more different than I once thought.

When we were younger, we were like typical brothers, always bickering and fighting about something, and we definitely still do sometimes.

Like recently for example when we were playing football at OGC Nice – he kicked off at me because I forgot to bring something down from my hotel room to the bus after he asked me to. It was one of those situations where he kicked off because I’m his brother, but if I was anyone else he would have just moved on.

But overall, it’s nice having him around. We don’t bicker and argue too much.