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When you’ve won a stage race, come close in a 250-kilometer classic, and hit the Olympic podium on the velodrome all before your 23rd birthday, your biggest problem is deciding which way to go next.
But Ethan Hayter isn’t stressing about that just yet. The 22-year-old Brit is just making the most of the flexibility while he can.
“I don’t really know what kind of rider I am or want to be …. I just try and do things, they work, and that’s just how it’s been going,” Hayter told VeloNews.
Hayter has stomped through the season so far, amassing a host of stage wins, riding to silver in a close-fought Olympic Madison, and winning the Tour of Norway. Just one week after taking the trophy in Stavanger, Hayter notched his best WorldTour result last weekend, riding to fourth in the 250km of rolling hills that is the Bretagne Classic-Ouest France.
It all adds up to an embarrassment of skillsets.
Just like his Ineos Grenadiers teammate Tom Pidcock, Hayter isn’t in any rush to pigeonhole himself just yet.
“I don’t see a reason to like put myself in a category of saying ‘this is the rider I am.’ I can win some sprints, I can almost win 250k classics, win up climbs and win in time trials, so I don’t think there’s any reason to limit myself just yet,” Hayter said on a call this week.
“It’s the same with doing track and road, while I can do both, there’s no reason to stop. If anything, I think track helps with road – and given I’ve had a pretty heavy track program this year and won seven road races. I’m in no rush to go one way or the other while I’m still young.”
Riding in illustrious company
Hayter’s remarkable versatility and impressive consistency since getting regular racing on the road has seen him rapidly rise the ranks at the power-packed Ineos Grenadiers squad.
Hayter lines up alongside former world champions and grand tour greats Michal Kwiatkowski, Richie Porte, and Rohan Dennis at the Tour of Britain on Sunday, and he won’t be on bottle duty. Instead, the 22-year-old will share the leadership of the team at its home race alongside his illustrious elder teammates.
Despite this year being his first full season in Ineos colors, Hayter has soon got used to leading a team stacked with riders he’s watched on television through his years as a junior.
“It’s strange to have everybody working for you, but it’s something you’ve got to adapt to,” he said. “It’s just the nature of sport – I’m stepping up to the biggest team in the world and if you lead in any race you’re going to have big riders working for you, which is a strange thing, but that’s just how it is.
“I remember in Etoile de Besseges they were leading me out, and I looked forward and it was [Egan] Bernal on the front, G [Thomas], Kwiato [Kwiatkowski], [Owain] Doull, and [Filippo] Ganna. That’s a pretty ridiculous leadout for a small race. It took me back a bit at the time, but you just have to adapt.”
Joining Ineos Grenadiers wasn’t the first time Hayter was exposed to riding with the most illustrious of teammates. After joining Great Britain’s senior track academy in 2016, the then 18-year-old Hayter was rubbing shoulders with the most illustrious of teammates.
“I had it first with Ed Clancy. I’d not met him before and suddenly you’re riding with an Olympic champion, and then we won the worlds together [at the 2018 Team Pursuit – ed]. They’re just normal people at the end of the day – not big scary people with massive egos or anything.”
Ethan van Aert?
Much like his all-star teammates and their rivals Wout van Aert and Julian Alaphippe, Hayter will be racing with one eye on the world championships when he rides through Britain next week. Hayter is on the short-list for the British worlds team, which is likely to be focused around his trade teammate Pidcock.
And after the worlds, the world is Hayter’s oyster. 2022 planning meetings in the coming months will determine a season that could open Hayter to hilly classics, stage races, grand tours, and the velodrome.
The only thing holding him back will be logistics.
“You can’t just do everything. There’s a lot of clashes through the year and you got to pick and choose. I think I’ll pick some targets next year and really go for them and just see what happens,” he said.
“There’s a few guys who are quite versatile like van Aert and Van der Poel, and they have to pick and choose and be quite clever about what they do, and it’s working for them … hopefully I’ll reach a similar level one day.”
You wouldn’t bet against it.