Battle looms between Australians at Paris-Tours
Sky's Mathew Hayman claimed his first win in five years in pipping compatriot Baden Cooke (Saxo Bank SunGard) on the line at the 190.4 kilometre Paris-Bourges on Thursday.
Hayman prevailed on a gruelling day on the bike, with foul weather conditions greeting riders on the start line and throughout the race. The 33-year-old claimed his place in the early breakaway and maintained his position as the race came back together.
"I was leading into the last 400 metres and managed a good sprint," he told teamsky.com. "I'd seen that the guys behind were lining up so I just went and Baden Cooke got alongside me but couldn't quite get over me and Greg [Henderson] was finishing very fast on the outside but the line came quicker.
"I was really happy with that - I think we got away after about 15 kilometres and I ended up kind of winning a sprint so there was a bit of disbelief afterwards!
"My last victory was the Commonwealth Games in 2006 so it's been a while in between but it's nice to win a race in a Team Sky jersey."
It's Hayman's second time on the podium this season, having finished third at Omloop Het Volk, but it was a result last week at Franco-Belge where he finished sixth overall behind winner Robbie McEwen (RadioShack) which gave Hayman the confidence that he was starting to come into a bit of form.
"I knew [last week] at Franco-Belge that I was going pretty well and Steven [de Jongh, the team's Sports Director] in the car told me to make sure I was confident in my sprint and I guess that's what I did."
Hayman will next take on Paris-Tours on Sunday where there's a battle looming between the Australians who have been on-song with Cooke heading into the 230 kilometre racing off the back of his second runner-up placing at Binche-Tournai-Binche, and a resurgent McEwen looking to finish the season off in style.
Given the change in the parcours to include the slight climb of the Côte de l'Epan within the last 10 kilometres, the race becomes even more suited to someone like Hayman who is known to favour breakaways.
"I'm really looking forward to Paris-Tours, it's really the last classic for the kind of guys like me who enjoy those sort of events," Hayman explained. "It's been a bit of a goal of mine at the end of the year after the World Championships.
"This win today puts the icing on the cake and means I'll go in there pretty relaxed but knowing I've got good form."