Mathew Hayman has a knack for telling it like it is when it comes to racing. When Geraint Thomas fell out of the overall lead on the penultimate stage at the Tour Down Under earlier in the season, the hard-working Australian domestique reminded his Sky teammates that "no one died". With Sky's Flanders line-up performing well below par last Sunday, Hayman says it's time to follow through on some of their pre-race talk this weekend at Paris-Roubaix.
Sky had been expected to have a say in the result of the Tour of Flanders with a line up of riders which had been performing strongly across the board in the weeks leading up to the monument, instead they failed to figure, with Edvald Boasson Hagen their best finisher in 17th place.
"Roubaix suits us a bit better in some ways," Hayman admitted to Cyclingnews. "Hopefully we can be back where we deserve to be and have just a good shot at it. Be in the game."
Paris-Roubaix certainly suits Hayman. In 2012, he earned his best-ever result, 8th, bettering his 10th in 2011 and 21st in his 2009 debut. The result could have been better for Hayman had a decision been made to ride for a podium when eventual winner, Tom Boonen, left the front group containing the Australian, Stannard, Boasson Hagen and Juan Antonio Flecha. It was late last year that Hayman told Cyclingnews that Roubaix represented a "missed opportunity" during his 2012 season and given the events of the past week, there's a good chance that that if the circumstances present themself, it's not something he will let slip again.
Whether Thomas will lead the Sky team this weekend, as he had for Flanders and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, was not something Hayman was willing to predict, telling Cyclingnews that tactics were yet to be discussed.
"Edvald's obviously shown in Flanders that he's going well," Hayman said. "I'm not sure whether Geraint will be as favoured. Again our advantage and disadvantage is that we've got a lot of good guys."
Flanders, punishing at the best of times, was especially so for the 34-year-old. Unable to consume anything the evening before the race, suffering from the same bug which in the 24 hours earlier had also hit Bernhard Eisel, Hayman took to the start line already drained.
"After four hours it was game over," he told Cyclingnews before the Scheldeprijs got underway on Wednesday. "I was just empty. I think I was just sort of kidding myself there for a while, pretending that there was no problem," Hayman's face still clearly wearing the disappointment.
"It's hard to take. But not only that; the rest of the team... They missed me, they missed Bernie, Ian was a bit off and there were some long faces in the bus after the race. We'd been working pretty hard towards these goals and... We weren't even close. We were way off."
Paris-Roubaix offers Hayman, who had been in sensational form in the lead up to Flanders, another chance. Sky had been one of a few teams before last Sunday which had indicated that they would attack the race early to counteract the strength that the likes of Fabian Cancellara and Peter Sagan would undoubtedly unleash in the final laps of the Kwaremont. While it's often easier said than done, the team that did make good on their plan, was Lotto Belisol with Jurgen Roelandts the benefactor. It was a performance that stood out for Hayman.
"When you look at how Jurgen Roelandts rode I think it's a fine example that we can look at and say, this is a guy who got the most out of his Tour of Flanders," he said. In fact, Hayman sees Roelandts as somewhat of an equal to his teammate, Boasson Hagen and therefore proof that if Sky really take the race to task on Sunday, they can earn the result they crave.
"Not taking away from Jurgen's performance but Edvald was also on form and ended up 17th," he continued. "When you look at those two riders I wouldn't have put much between them so we need to just switch that over and race a bit more aggressively and hopefully we can pull off a result similar to his."