Hayman: I couldn't think of a better way to retire

Mathew Hayman had to spend another three months training in order to tack one extra week onto the end of his career, but it was more than worth it as he bowed out in style at the Tour Down Under.

The 40-year-old Australian rode his last full season in 2018 but wanted to bring an end to his 19-year career, which included a famous victory at Paris-Roubaix, on home turf in front of home fans. 

It couldn't have gone much better, as his Mitchelton-Scott claimed their fifth Tour Down Under title in eight years, with Daryl Impey sealing back-to-back overall victories by keeping Richie Porte at bay up the double ascent of Willunga Hill on the final day.

"You don't get to choose, but I couldn't think of a better way to go out," Hayman told Cyclingnews beyond the finish line.

"Half-way up the climb I was thinking about my career, and ending, and then all of a sudden it was back to thinking about the race again. What a ride from Daryl. It's been a week's worth of work, which it always is for us, and he's a legend for finishing it off like that."

Hayman was an enormously popular winner at Roubaix in 2016 and, in his final race, the esteem in which he is held by the peloton was clear to see. Roared on by the home crowds on Willunga, it was also notable that he received a fair few pats on the back from his fellow pros ahead of the final ascent. 

"It was really nice to have a couple of guys congratulate me on my career there just before the last climb," he said.

"I've always raced hard in my career and sometimes you have the name that guys like having you on their team as I race hard, but I hope that it has always been fair. I've tried to be professional the whole time."

Not that the final stage was a mere procession. Dropped on the first ascent of Willunga Hill, Hayman fought tooth and nail - and even admitted he had some 'friends in the convoy' - to get back into the peloton to be in the thick of the racing until the very last.

"It's mixed emotions because at first I was thinking about my retirement, but then it was back to thinking about the race. We heard some crackles over the radio, and we thought we'd won it and there were four of us going up there - me, Durbo [Luke Durbridge] Heppy [Michael Hepburn] and Edmo [Alexander Edmondson] - and we were giving each other high fives, but then we were like 'well are we sure?', because it was kind of crackly on the radio.

"So it was back to thinking about the race, and I wouldn't want it any other way. We've had to race every single day this week. It has been a tactical race, we needed the seconds, and Daryl has just been superb, like he was last year. He's the first guy to go back-to-back. It shows, everyone still underestimated him a little bit, he didn't come in here as a favourite, people were still talking about Richie and the other climbers, they made the course harder, and he stepped up again. He's a super nice guy and congrats to him."

Hayman will now hang up his racing wheels but will remain in cycling and will indeed remain in the Mitchelton-Scott set-up as he takes up a wide-ranging back-room role at the team.

"It's sad for us because no one wants to see a guy that valuable stop racing," Mitchelton-Scott directuer sportif Matt White told Cyclingnews.

"On the other hand, we're going to have that knowledge and value on the other side of the fence. I think he's going to be very important for the organization, and that starts in a couple of weeks' time."

For now, though, Hayman can has eared him a break - however small - not to mention some celebrations tonight. Asked what he was going to do on his first day as a retired athlete, he was unequivocal: "I'm going to sleep in with a hangover."

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