When Mat Hayman crashed at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad suffering a fractured radius, it appeared the 2016 classics campaign was over before it even begun for the 37-year-old. A low key return to racing in Spain last week at the GP Miguel Indurain and then the Vuelta Ciclista a La Rioja, helping Michael Matthews to the win, suggested that the Orica-GreenEdge rider could be right for Paris-Roubaix but unlikely to challenge for victory.
When Hayman infiltrated the breakaway after a fast and furious start to the race with teammate Magnus Cort for company, there was little to suggest he would be the most dangerous of the 13-riders. However with 14 previous Paris-Roubaix's under his belt, Hayman used his experience and guile to pull of a win for the underdogs that simultaneously raised the heart rate of team manager Shayne Bannan to over 180 inside the Roubaix velodrome.
"You could certainly term it that way but you have to look at the character of the guys that really do it for us like Gerro [Simon Gerrans] who has won the two monuments for us," Bannan responded to Cyclingnews when asked if it was a win for the underdog. "Now Maty Hayman, who is just so professional about how he goes about his business. He has a real passion for this race, he lives it, he dreams it so every time he starts Paris-Roubaix he's giving himself a chance."
Speaking post-race, Bannan added that Hayman missing the classics could well be seen as a blessing in disguise as it allowed him to solely focus on his favourite race of the season.
"Today was just his day, he was in the early break, he conserved and I think probably another factor was that he's had that hairline fracture of the elbow about four-five weeks ago," Bannan explained of Hayman whose last European win came at Paris-Bourges in 2011. "So maybe coming here still prepared, maybe even more prepared, more motivated but without the extra stress of expectation because there wasn't a lot of expectation and we just saw an incredible ride. My heart is still racing over 180 I reckon."
Orica-GreenEdge had cracked the top-ten at Paris-Roubaix on just one previous occasion, sixth place with Jens Keukeleire in 2015, but having observed Hayman prior to the start of the race and during the racing, Bannan explained that it appeared luck was on the Canberrans side.
"That's Paris-Roubaix and not that I am a great expert in this race, but what I've seen is that if you're on a good day, you seem to have more luck, you seem to have things go your way and that's what happened to Mat today," said Bannan.
"You see the way he was riding, he was bumped off the wheel and when he got back on, I thought 'shit, he's actually going pretty well here' and I think he really used his intelligence and experience in that last 15k and you could see the confidence in the moves he was making, he'd summed up the situation…it was like one of those heavy weight fights, wasn't it.
"It was a great race and great to watch, beautiful."
The win is Orica-GreenEdge's third in the five monuments after Simon Gerrans' triumphs at Milan-San Remo in 2012 and Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2014 and the team are preparing for its second title at La Doyenne later this month that could see Bannan's heart rate hit the 200 mark.
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