Two months after hanging up his wheels as a professional bike rider, Mathew Hayman has immersed himself in his new role as a sports director. The Australian retired at the conclusion of the Tour Down Under in January, bringing down the curtain on a career that spanned two decades. Last weekend he was back in action for his Mitchelton-Scott team – but as a director during Opening Weekend in Belgium.
"I did a recon with the boys the other day and I got dropped, which I probably should have been seeing as I've not ridden much for over a month. It confirms you need to train to ride these races," he told Cyclingnews.
Hayman's retirement was as well planned and orchestrated as they come. He announced the news last year and used his home WorldTour race as a farewell tour. That said, little can prepare an athlete for the quick transition into retirement that they inevitability go through.
"Straight after the Tour Down Under, I drove crying kids around in a van," he told Cyclingnews.
"Everyone was pretty tired – they needed sleep – so I went and parked under a tree while they slept. We celebrated the twins' second birthday the day before we left Australia. I couldn't think of a better way to finish my career. It's done and I'm excited for these races, and for the boys. I don't feel like I need to be out there."
Hayman returned to his European home soon after the Tour Down Under. As a former Classics rider and Paris-Roubaix winner, he threw himself into his next role with Mitchelton Scott. First, he covered a batch of one-day races in Spain, before all of his attention was focused on the spring Classics. The 40-year-old is well aware that there will be moments in which his emotions as a former rider will go into autopilot and that he may struggle with certain aspects, but, for now, the shift from the bike to the team car has worked.
"So far I've been so busy. There are going to be moments, but I've prepared myself to have some tough times. So far I've not had an inkling because I've been into the next stuff. It was part of the plan, to stay busy, and so far it's working," he said.
"I did a couple of little races in Spain with Matt White, but this is where it starts. Lorenzo Lapage is the director here and I'm just helping with some of the knowledge that I have. I'm still riding, but not as much as I thought I would be or should be. I think I still need to find that balance, too. Once things settle down, I'll ride more. It makes you feel better."
Being a young director takes discipline and a degree of leadership. While Hayman has the qualities in abundance, it calls for a different form of delivery now that he's no longer part of the roster. That said, the former Paris-Roubaix winner believes that the timing of his retirement gives him an advantage when it comes to working between the senior staff and the riders he left behind.
"We want to use the advantage that just a month ago I was one of the boys. We don't want me to be segregated totally. Hopefully, you get to a point where you are separated, but why not use where I am now as an advantage? I can be closer, and more honest. I'm still trying to straddle it, but it's clear that I'm not a rider anymore."