As he turned pro with Rabobank when a new millennium started, Mathew Hayman was set to ride for the Dutch outfit for his whole career until became a pioneer in the new exciting adventure of Team Sky in 2010. Now in his second year with Orica-GreenEdge, he was busy nurturing sprinting talent Caleb Ewan on the eve of the Tour of Norway when the Richie Porte/Simon Clarke incident occurred at the Giro d'Italia.
"I didn't see it and I wasn't there but I know that rule [preventing riders of different teams from helping each other]," the rider from Canberra told Cyclingnews at the Tour of Norway in Oslo. "I fully understand how it happened in the heat of a race but I wouldn't have given a wheel to someone from Sky. I can say that here but I'm probably guilty of helping friends from other teams at races too, maybe not on that scale but closing gaps or giving a turn… If I'm in a classic along with Luke Rowe or Geraint Thomas, I don't cut into them in a corner.
"A lot has been written about Team Sky," Hayman continued, "but in the group of the classics, I have some good friends and I miss racing with them. There are always people talking about the Orica guys getting on very well and Sky being robotic but I had great fun at Sky too. Pretty much all those guys would fit in with GreenEdge too."
Asked about the difference between the two teams, the Australian hesitated. "I've tried to answer that question before… The budget is the main difference. GreenEdge is what you see. There's no smoke, no mirrors. Sky is on a ten-year plan to become the biggest sporting team in the world while here… we're looking at the next Tour de France, firing up the first week, hunting for stage wins, hoping that Michael Matthews will get his first Tour de France stage victory. I hope to be part of it." Hayman rode his first Tour last year at the age of 36 but was forced to pull in stage 10 – the same as Alberto Contador – due to health issues. He's one of the most respected domestiques in the pro peloton.
He rode for the British, before possibly concluding his career with the team from his homeland. "I can see a direct rivalry between UK and Australia on the track like in our traditional sports (cricket, rugby…)", he said. "But in road cycling, there are too many other people out there."
"Team Sky has changed the sport", Hayman added. "The first year we tried to reinvent the wheels. I was coming from a very traditional team. It was refreshing. Now I'd like to see the longevity of that. For how long can they keep the intensity? Maybe they've changed the sport where pro cyclists don't last till they're 40 or 45 anymore. Sky takes very good riders. They've more resources [and an Australian leader at the Giro] but yet, I think Ewan and the Yates brothers are better at GreenEdge. Sky would run out of time to develop them.
"We also have three ‘pommies' in the team [Adam Blythe and the Yates]. Here Caleb can be a leader at every race he starts but the team takes off the pressure he puts on himself. The Yates' are very ambitious. The way they walked straight in at WorldTour level is impressive. They wouldn't fit in Sky for the first few years of their career. Is GreenEdge developing them for Sky? Probably. But hopefully they'll stay. We have an attractive way of racing. All riders are getting opportunities. It's very exciting to develop GC riders but in cycling, it's hard to see five years ahead. The risk is high to develop riders for other teams."
In terms of the general classification Hayman knows that his team are still in development, but he enjoys being the outside bet. "GreenEdge enjoys the underdogs status", he noted. "That's always an Australian thing. We are who we are. We don't have the biggest budget but we fight really hard. Simon Gerrans is a great role model. Even his tactics are meticulous. Sky are expected to win at every race they line up…"