Great Britain's Ethan Hayter continued what has been a stunning breakthrough season at the World Championships time trial in Flanders, finishing in eighth place on what was his debut in the elite event.
The 23-year-old has racked up eight wins for Ineos Grenadiers so far in 2021, and last week narrowly missed the Tour of Britain overall victory to time trial silver medallist Wout van Aert (Belgium).
On Sunday, he finished 1:27 down on Ineos Grenadiers teammate Filippo Ganna (Italy) in Bruges, afterwards declaring himself very happy with his effort on what was the longest time trial of his career to date, despite the course not being fully suited to his riding style.
"I thought a top 10 would be really nice today so I'm very happy with that ride," Hayter said after finishing the race. "It's great to see Filippo has won, too. It's amazing.
"I would have preferred some climbs, obviously, being smaller than those guys. I prefer to punch over some climbs, being a bit more of a sprinter and track rider. Today I wasn't at 100 per cent, but sometimes that's good not to be super fresh for a time trial.
"I'm very happy with today. I could have improved in a few sections and obviously I didn't get to do a massive amount of time trial training in the end but I'm happy."
Hayter will now be looking ahead to next Sunday's road race – another longest race of his career – where he'll be joined by a largely young British squad including multi-discipline phenomenon Tom Pidcock, Jake Stewart and Fred Wright, as well as veterans Mark Cavendish, Connor Swift, Ben Swift, and Luke Rowe.
On paper, Hayter, a strong all-rounder type with a strong sprint who performs well on hilly, punchy courses, is well-suited to the Flanders road race, even if – as a sophomore pro – it's too early to hang any big expectations over his head. He said, however, that he has yet to look at the course, having raced through a busy schedule in the past month, including an overall win at the Tour of Norway.
"I've not actually looked at the course, to be honest," he said. "I've been so busy going to races. Now I have a whole week to do that.
"Everyone comes in on Tuesday night and Wednesday so it's going to be really fun to have everyone back together, especially the young guys – me, Tom, Fred and Jake. We've got really good options and obviously no favourites as it is."
Hayter isn't the only member of his family who has tasted success recently, with his younger brother – DSM Development team rider Leo – having taken a solo victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège Espoirs on Satuday. Ethan, who followed race updates online, admitted that he felt more nervous for his brother than he did before making his elite Worlds debut.
"He's had quite a hard time, but he's worked really hard," Hayter said. "He's been unlucky more than anything and he really deserved yesterday. We were all over the moon for him, to be honest. It wasn't on TV so I was just refreshing DirectVelo. Actually, I was probably more nervous for him than I was for my race today, so it was funny. I had sweaty hands."
Now coming towards the final stretch of what has been a hugely successful season, Hayter said that he plans to race the Italian autumn Classics after the Worlds rather than making his bow at next month's Paris-Roubaix. An appearance at the Track World Championships could also be on the cards, though his Great Britain team will need special dispensation to compete.
"I think it's more likely that I go to Italy and do some one-day races there," Hayter said about his upcoming schedule. "I don't personally feel ready for Roubaix. You've got to be fully committed and at the moment I'm not sure. At the moment I'm going to Italy, and I really enjoy racing there.
"The British Cycling team don't know if we've – I don't know why but we didn't do any Nations Cups – you have to do one to go to the Worlds. So, at the moment we're not eligible and we're trying to get dispensation, so I don't know yet. Then we have the British Nationals the week before, so I'll definitely do the Nationals and then we'll see what happens with the team selection."
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