Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers) was pleased but understandably cautious to find himself in the lead of the Tour de Pologne after taking third place in the crucial 11-kilometre time trial. The result propelled him into a narrow 11-second advantage in the overall classification on stage winner Thymen Arensman (Team DSM).
Hayter finished eight seconds down on Arensman in the stage 6 time trial as Ineos Grenadiers stacked the top 10 with Magnus Sheffield in second, Hayter in third and Ben Tulett in sixth.
Should all go well on the final 177.8-kilometre Tour de Pologne stage into Krakow, which has a first category climb early on but is largely flat for the remainder, Hayter is a little over 24 hours away from being crowned the first ever British winner of Tour de Pologne. All this at 23, in a career that is progressing in leaps and bounds.
However, quite apart from normal challenges facing any GC leader, Tour de Pologne has been witness to late crashes on four of its five preceding stages, so it makes sense that Hayter was adamant that the age-old cliché about a race not being over til the final finish line applied to Pologne in full.
"It's not like the Tour de France and Paris, there's still 180 kilometres to go and anything can happen. Until I cross the line it's not over."
Speaking earlier in the week to Cyclingnews, Hayter had not been overly optimistic about his chances on a time trial that had been squeezed from its original 16 kilometres to 11, eliminating much of the flat section that would have favoured him. As the British National time trial champion told reporters afterwards, he had found the almost constantly climbing course a tough one to handle.
"It was very hard, the first section was slightly uphill the whole way and you had to push hard and maybe I did a little bit too much. I really suffered on the last steep section."
"But I sprinted over the top and sprinted again to the finish and it was enough for the yellow jersey."
Although leading Tour de Pologne is another major success for such a young racer, Hayter's time trialling has already been established as a major strongpoint. He won the British Nationals TT twice as well as taking the opening prologue of Romandie and finishing third in the Dauphine TT this year alone.
"Maybe I could have taken the first part a bit easier and given it a bit more at the end but I definitely gave it everything I could."
"It would have been nice for a bit more flat [roads] in the start, maybe, third is close to the win, but taking the jersey is good too and hopefully we can finish it off."
In terms of what's to come, Hayter said that he expected some teams to try some long-distance moves on the early climbs, "but hopefully it'll come down to a bunch sprint and the sprinters' teams will help us, and there won't be any crashes. That's the main goal."
"It'd be good to try and sprint with Elia [Viviani, team fast man in Pologne - Ed.], we've not got it quite right this week yet but first of all we'll try and keep the yellow jersey."
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