An interview with Mathew Hayman , April 10, 2005
Matt Hayman is not a name that immediately springs to the lips when you're discussing the Aussie brigade in Europe, but recent strong performances have placed him in Rabobank's stable as one of their thoroughbred Classics riders. Cyclingnews' Les Clarke had a chat to Matt on the eve of riding Paris-Roubaix.
Hayman was about to leave for Rabobank's team meeting where plans for Sunday's Paris-Roubaix will be finalised, which led to the first question of what his role will be in the 'Hell of the North'. He's not quite sure what role he'll be playing on Sunday, but it looks most likely that he'll be part of the team's effort to get Marc Wauters in a good position; that's what they did a couple of years ago - going as far as they could to get him to the line.
Paris-Roubaix is Hayman's favourite event, and he has ridden the Queen of the Classics four times previously - twice in the dry, and twice in the wet. "It could get very messy if there's rain this year, but I'm glad we're not riding through Arenberg [the course has been changed for 2005], especially if it does rain. I've ridden through there before and it's pretty scary."
Like many of the riders in the peloton, Hayman has been sick recently, and in the last days has experienced a nasty fever. But such is his desire to ride his favourite race, that he's putting this bout of ill-health to one side in order to race on Sunday. "I'm still deciding to run it," he said, "But I really want to ride this race because it's the last race of my Classics campaign. I'm not doing Amstel Gold or Flèche Wallonne, so Roubaix is my focus until the Giro."
Last Sunday's Ronde van Vlaanderen was a good race for Hayman; although he finished 47th, he was pleased with his contribution to Rabobank's campaign: "It was pretty good. I had to change bikes, but I was able to get back on, and Dekker got a puncture so we had to wait for him, but considering I came in when Oscar [Freire] was too ill to ride the race, I was happy."
The Rabobank man isn't letting recent good performances in races such as the Three days of De Panne (where he finished eighth) get to his head. He doesn't see himself as a 'go to' man quite yet. "When you have riders such as Erik Dekker and Oscar Freire in your team, you just have to work as part of the team. It's not much use looking to have that kind of role in the team when you have these riders leading and winning races. It changes from race to race, especially when we get to the 'racing on two fronts' during the big tours. Some of the team will be riding the big events, and others will be riding to perform well in Germany and Poland, two events on our calendar where roles within the team will change for some riders."
When asked about whether he has learnt and developed as a result of riding with the two riders mentioned it's a mixed response: "It's hard to learn a lot from Oscar because he does his own thing most of the time and gets out the front and just goes for it. I've learnt a lot from Erik Dekker - he's a very tactical rider, making space for us to ride in, similar to the way you make space for teammates in footy. He comes by and has a chat, and lifts the team, like at Paris-Tours, where he performed really well last year - I really enjoy riding with Erik."
As for riding with Dekker's namesake Thomas, Hayman has plenty of praise for the 20-year-old: "Thomas is a really talented rider. He talks the talk, but he also walks the walk to back it up. If it came down to it, I'd swap off for Thomas if he's going to win, he's that talented." This is a change for most riders in their prime, especially with Hayman's extra years over the younger Dekker. Most riders wouldn't appreciate working for their junior partners, but Hayman knows the role he has to play as a team man and is happy with it.
It's this team spirit that may see his contract renewed for 2006, as his current contract expires at the end of '05. "Yeah, I've had a strong Classics campaign and they're aware of that, but I'm not really thinking that far ahead." In the immediate future, however, Rabobank will be looking to Hayman to continue his good form and help bring the Dutch squad a coveted Roubaix victory.