Ethan Hayter has enjoyed a breakthrough season at Ineos Grenadiers, with the 22-year-old coming back from a serious injury to pick up eight wins on the road and take over the race lead at the Tour of Britain after victory in the team time trial.
The second-year pro finished alongside Rohan Dennis, Richie Porte, Owain Doull, Michal Kwiatkowski, and Carlos Rodriguez in the Carmarthenshire time trial on Tuesday and now sits 16 seconds clear of race favourite Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) in the overall standings, but the road season as a whole has been a huge success for Hayter.
"I keep shocking myself, in a way," Hayter told Cyclingnews and The Cycling Podcast at the stage finish.
"The season started out a bit rough with a few crashes and bad luck. In Omloop [Het Nieuwsblad] I was there in the finish and then with 1km to go someone crashed right in front of me. Since then I’ve just started building and every race I go to I seem to win a stage. It’s just crazy and it makes racing really enjoyable."
Hayter kicked off his season at Etoile de Bessèges in February but his winter was overshadowed by the crash that took him out of the 2020 Gent-Wevelgem, which fall left him with a broken leg and a torn ligament. His form returned by the time March came around, with a stage win in Coppi e Bartali followed by another stage win and a stint in the leader’s jersey at the Volta ao Algarve. He grabbed another two stage wins in Ruta del Sol before claiming the overall - and two stage wins – in the Tour of Norway.
"I’ve not really had too many goals on the road this year," he said, having also taken aim at the Tokyo Olympics, where he won silver in the Madison on the track.
"I’ve exceeded my own and other people’s expectations. If you count this, I think I’ve got eight wins this year. I’ve not really had it planned this far in advance. I thought that I’d keep racing after the Olympics and it’s definitely been worth it. October last year I broke my leg and MCL in a crash at Gent-Wevelgem. I snapped my bike into ten pieces and that took me a long time to come back from, to be honest."
The Tour of Britain is far from over, with only one or two stages designated for the sprinters before the race comes to a close in Scotland at the weekend. Hayter is certainly recognised as a fast finisher but his climbing this season – as shown in Algarve – has come on leaps and bounds during his second term at Ineos.
The British WorldTour team have a stacked roster for the race but Wednesday’s stage 4, which heads through Snowdonia and finishes on a steep climb, will be a stern test for both the race leader and his squad.
"I know that it’s a long day and that there are some climbs in the middle," he said. "It will be quite selective and quite explosive. We have a few options on the GC, so we’ll see.
"There aren’t many simple sprint stages. The stage that’s probably flattest is the Manchester stage  and I know it quite well. It’s not simple, though, and this race is hard to defend with just six riders but we’ve got a super strong team. I’ve not really looked at the profile for tomorrow too much, though. If the opportunity is there then I’ll have a crack at the finish."
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