Bravery in surf rescue recognised by Australian Governor-General
His selfless exploits on the road have been well-documented, his response to do whatever needs to be done automatic, but Mathew Hayman's efforts don't just stop when he gets off his bike at the end of the day.
Flashback to December 11, 2008 and the Australian is enjoying a summer holiday at the beach "like so many other Australians" on the New South Wales south coast. The conditions aren't the best and the water at Mollymook beach is running in all directions. It's windy and unseasonably cool.
Two clearly fatigued boys struggle out of the surf and further out, Hayman can see someone else still in the water.
"There's a place in my head that said ‘you're not supposed to go into a rip,' but I had a board and I had a wetsuit," the Team Sky rider told Cyclingnews from Belgium. "I'm not a surfer by any stretch of the imagination and I'd only had it [the board] for a day or so but I was pretty confident that with both of those things that I could stay afloat. If something needs to be done I tend to just jump in and do it. Try to lead by example. I like to take control and be in control."
Hayman followed a young local woman into the dangerous surf and together, they dragged the unconscious father of the two boys onto the cyclist's board and brought him back to shore. The man had entered the water trying to save his sons from a dangerous rip. He was, sadly, unable to be revived.
"I still think about what if I'd made the decision a couple of seconds quicker, or I'd run a bit faster up the beach - things could have been different but at the time I did everything I could," Hayman said. "Every bike race you can go back and look at it and it can come down to one decision or 10 seconds where ‘what if I had of held on there,' or if only I'd done things differently."
This week, it was announced that Hayman along with the young woman he assisted in the rescue, will be awarded the Commendation for Brave Conduct by Australia's Governor-General, Quentin Bryce.
Hayman, though humble in every sense of the word, is "very honoured." As he says, the incident is not something that easily comes up in conversation and given the result, will go down as a pretty tough day in his own history given that there is a wife without a husband, and three children without a father.
It's a situation brought even more to the fore given that his partner is due to give birth to their first child, and could even threaten his start in Sunday's Tour of Flanders.
The 32-year-old is in the form of his career and heads into Flanders having finished third at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and fourth at Dwars door Vlaanderen. The Spring Classics are a challenge he particularly enjoys having traversed the roads since he headed to Europe as an 18-year-old.
"I've been able to take opportunities where in other years I might have left," he said of his recent form. "The team's backing me too which is nice. They've got confidence in me and that gives me confidence in myself. So I've been going to a few of these races and throwing caution to the wind seeing where I end up."
Somehow you just know that that's exactly what Hayman will do.