When Ed Clancy described a then 19 year-old Ethan Hayter as “the next Bradley Wiggins” back in March, after they won team pursuit gold together in at the world track championships, it was tempting to put it down to a bit of over-excitement on the night.
Clancy, the triple Olympic champion, was clearly on a high after a young British quartet, which also featured a 21-year-old Charlie Tanfield, post a blisteringly quick 3:53 in the final.
“I’m 33 now and I’m riding around with Ethan Hayter who is only 19,” Clancy enthused. “You know, I ain’t getting any slower but these boys are quick!
“You look at the turns [Hayter] threw there. He did two [laps on the front], and then a three-and-a-quarter lap finish, so that is five and a quarter laps from man four. As a 19 year-old?
“Ethan, I think, is the next Wiggins to be honest. He really is that good. He is good on road as well – he’s not like me, he doesn’t creep up hills. He’s probably the strongest man on our team today and he is 19 years old.”
Ask Hayter about those comments now and he dismisses them with a laugh. “I think he [Clancy] was having a bit of an adrenaline rush,” he says. “I just had a really good day I think.”
Maybe. But Hayter – who will be back in action at the UCI Track World Cup event at the Olympic velodrome in London next week, albeit only for the qualifying round of the team pursuit on Thursday evening before heading off to Portugal to join the rest of the senior endurance riders – appears to have had an awful lot of good days this year.
So many in fact that, nine months on, Clancy’s words are beginning to sound prophetic rather than hyperbolic.
After picking up that maiden world title in Apeldoorn, Hayter was part of the British team who took silver at the Commonwealth Games in April (behind Australia who smashed the world record in the final, going sub-3:50 for the first time). He also took bronze in the individual points race.
Hayter then took three medals at the European track championships in August, including the individual omnium title, before a couple of gold medals at the European U23 championships.
Switching to road, Hayter raised eyebrows at the OVO Energy Tour of Britain in early September, posting a string of top-10 finishes against some of the best riders in the world.
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It was at this point that Team Sky decided they wanted to take a look at him, with Hayter helping Gianni Moscon to two wins at the Copa Agostoni as part of a ‘stagiaire’ deal. He then went to the world road race championships in Innsbruck and took fifth in the U23 time trial and eighth in the road race.
Effectively, then, Hayter managed to hold his form all season, from January until late September, picking up results on both track and road. And all at the tender age of 19. And all this while living in a house-share in Cheadle with his old academy team mates. “It’s been pretty full-on,” he smiles.
No kidding. And no wonder Hayter – who grew up in south London and learnt his craft at Herne Hill velodrome – is now a man in hot demand. A few professional teams have been sniffing around him for next year although he seems likely to hold off signing for any of them, so that he can continue to pick and choose his schedule. “I might sign for a continental development team,” he says. “But it’s most likely to be the British Cycling academy team. My big aim next year will be winning the [U23s] worlds in Yorkshire.”
The big goal, though, remains Tokyo 2020, by which time Hayter will be 21. He is aiming to ‘treble up’ in the team pursuit, the omnium and the Madison. Then, like Wiggins and Geraint Thomas before him, he can turn his attentions to the road in earnest. Does he believe he can follow in their cleats and win the Tour de France one day? “When G won the Tour [this year], it did kind of cross my mind that, you know, I’ve been doing similar things and, well… it is a possibility I guess! I’ve always climbed quite well. And I seem to get better day by day in stage races.
“You know, I realise how quickly things can be snatched away from you. I was knocked off my bike by a car last month and I’ve had a month off my bike. But I just have to keep plugging away I guess. It’s all happened quite quickly… this time last year if you’d told me I would win the worlds and do nothing else all year I would have snapped your hand off.”
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