Ethan Hayter needs little introduction to readers of The British Continental. One of the brightest British cycling prospects for some time, 20-year-old Hayter already has a track world championship gold medal, a stagiaire spot at Team Sky and several striking road racing results to his name. This is why he is one of our domestic riders to watch in 2019.
Hayter is one of a crop of current young talents to have developed through south London club Velo Club Londres, including recent interviewees Fred Wright and Jacob Vaughan (Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes) and our journal contributor George Jary. Another rider within that crop is his younger brother Leo, currently a junior, an equally exciting prospect on both track and road.
For Hayter senior, his results in 2018 were particularly impressive. On the track, gold in the team pursuit at the world championships was followed by a gold in the European Championships in the omnium against a strong field, as well as numerous other medals throughout the track season. On the road, he earned himself a stagiaire spot at Team Sky in the second half of the season, and racked up four top-tens in the Tour of Britain while riding for the Great Britain team. Then in the under-23 world championships he backed up a 5th place in the time trial with 8th in the road race.
Part of British Cycling’s podium programme, Hayter has his eyes firmly set on racing the track at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. But that’s not to say we shouldn’t expect to see him shine on the road this season. Starting his road season late this year, he’s already picked up a 6th place on stage 1 of the Tour de Yorkshire, followed by another 6th at the Lincoln Grand Prix.
We caught up with Hayter just before the Tour de Yorkshire to discuss his talented younger brother, his successful 2018, his plans for 2019 and his Tokyo 2020 ambitions.
My goal is to go and get three gold medals
You’re one a group of young riders that have successfully emerged through the ranks of Velo Club Londres. What do you think it is about VCL that has seen so many, talented riders riders come through at the same time?
There are probably a few things. South London has quite a dense population to help bring people in. And then also a lot of that group grew up together, like me, Jacob, and Fred. I guess we just all just enjoyed it really. Obviously, it was more than just us three; there’s quite a big group of youths that are always coming through every year. Obviously there are riders who perhaps aren’t as talented, and you won’t end up seeing them on the news, but they still really enjoy what they’re doing.
Technically, he’s been quicker than me every year at the same age
And your little brother Leo is another rider in that group. He’s doing well in the junior ranks at the moment. Will he be even quicker than you when he reaches the senior ranks?!
Technically, he’s been quicker than me every year at the same age. I put that down to equipment! It will be interesting to see. He’s going really well at the moment.
So he could genuinely be faster than you potentially?
It’s quite possible, yeah.
Is there any rivalry there?
A little, but I don’t think we’re that bothered really. I think if we went out training more often it might be the case, but we don’t see each other too much, so it’s all right!
In the interview you did with the Telegraph in December you said that the Olympics in Tokyo were your big focus. Is that still the case?
Yeah. The Olympics are a year and a few months away and it’s the biggest thing in the sport really. It would silly to miss that opportunity.
And back at the time of that interview you were considering whether to join a road team this season or stay within the British Cycling stable. What led to your decision to remain at British Cycling and not join a team?
There was basically no team like them. It’s one of the best. Obviously, I would have had their support because of the track anyway, but it’s just easier if everyone is on the same page in terms of the various road programmes and my track programme, they all get made together in one go. And the British Cycling Academy is one of the best programmes in the world anyway.
It goes a bit unreported but their support is unreal compared to everywhere else. So I’m happy to stay and there wasn’t really any benefit to leave. It’s not like there’s much money floating about or there are any teams that do better races than we do, so really there was really not much reason to move.
So what’s the rest of the year looking like? You’re obviously back on the road now. Will you have much a road programme or will the year be more focused on the track?
At the moment I’m hoping to ride a big road programme. I’m hoping to do maybe the Baby Giro, the Tour de L’Avenir, the Tour of Britain and the Worlds. It should be a pretty solid road season, really.
And you had a very impressive year on the road and the track last season. Whilst those results didn’t come out of nowhere, were the results a surprise to you at all? Can you regard 2018 as a breakthrough year?
I wouldn’t say it was breakthrough on the road because I finished my first year in the seniors  off pretty consistently. I did well in some Italian races and then went alright in the Tour of Britain before getting ill before the Worlds. Then obviously I knew I’d better in my second year anyway, and had the confidence of winning the Worlds [Hayter won team pursuit gold in the 2018 track world championships]. And then maybe I could quite conceivably have won quite a few races last year in Europe [Hayter had several top 10s, including podiums in UCI races in the first half of 2018].
And then from the nationals [the British road race championships in June] I did track for the track Euros, and then the U23 track Euros as well [both held in August]. I hadn’t raced on the road for a couple of months, so I got to the Tour of Britain not really knowing where I’d be. I knew in training I’d been doing pretty well. And obviously I’d won the omnium at the track Euros [beating Elia Viviani].
In the first stage of the Tour of Britain we were meant to be working for Swifty [Ben Swift], but I’d lost him in the finish and I ended up doing pretty well [Hayter finished 7th on stage 1]. After that we kind of had a bit of a free role each. It worked out pretty well.
Indeed. You were fourth for stage 3, and seventh and fifth on stages 7 and 8. So by the end of the race was the team working for you?
They were working for me, yeah. But I think in the Bristol stage [stage 3], there was a climb in the last 10k or so. They led me out into that that and then left me to it. That was what we decided was the best way to approach the stage.
That was the stage that Alaphilippe won?
Yeah. I thought I could hold him for a second and then he just kept going! But yeah, it was really a positive race for me. And then I kept getting better all the way to the Worlds pretty much.
Indeed. And then you went off to Team Sky for your stagiaire spot. I remember listening to the Cycling Podcast a while ago, and I think Rod Ellingsworth mentioned you as somebody he was keeping an eye on. Had you been in touch with Team Sky for a long time before the stagiaire experience came about?
Not particularly. I think obviously they keep tabs on a lot of people. After the track Worlds, in April, I met with Rod. And then the stagiaire role came about a bit later when we realised there was an opportunity to do it with me and Mark [Donovan].
How did you find it?
I thought it was really good. It was only a week in the end, just because of the way things worked out with me doing Tour of Britain and then the Worlds. And I wanted a break after the road Worlds for the track, which ended up not really working, since I crashed and missed the World Cups! But yeah, it was really a good opportunity. It was good just being in that environment. It was pretty relaxed, so I enjoyed it.
And then in the Worlds, you were fifth in the ITT and eighth in the road race. Were you happy with that performance?
It was a bit weird because I was so close to being so much better, if you know what I mean. But then, if you look at the time trial, I did no time trial training all year really, and I was on a new bike, so I can be quite happy with that. I was 10 seconds off a medal, maybe a bit more, something like that.
And the road race, I knew I was going well into that. I didn’t know how I would get on with the climbs, because obviously there was a lot of climbing. It was just a bit frustrating because I found myself in that second group. On the one hand I’d done pretty well to get there, but then it just wasn’t quite enough to be sprinting for the win. It was still a really good performance and I’m definitely happy with it, but hopefully I can get a bit better in Yorkshire.
One thing that seems remarkable about you is that clearly very much focused on the track, so I imagine you’re not as light as you could be if you were just focusing on the road, but you seem to handle the climbs very well nonetheless.
Compared to the end of my first year [as a senior], I’m now six or seven kilos heavier, so about 10% heavier. It’s just muscle mass at the moment for the track and I don’t know what I’ll do after the Olympics for now, but I don’t mind just having to ride a bit harder!
So there’s potentially a lot of stage racing coming up for you with the Baby Giro, L’Avenir, and the Tour of Britain. When will we see you back on the track?
So my current plan is to go straight from the road Worlds onto the track for the track Euros [in October], if I’m going well enough to get selected. There aren’t many opportunities between now and the Olympics for that level of racing. So I have to try to take every one I can, pretty much.
I think at the moment, in terms of results, I’m probably the number one omnium rider, but so much can change
You’re clearly not taking selection for the Olympics for granted at the moment, despite having made it into some of the big selections of the last couple years…
No, definitely not. I think at the moment, in terms of results, I’m probably the number one omnium rider but it can all change. This time last year, I hadn’t ridden a high level omnium. There’s loads of riders pushing for spots. I’ve got to try to keep being one of the best in the world to be the best in the UK, so it’s not easy.
Are you thinking about selection for the team pursuit and madison as well as the omnium?
My goal is to go and get three gold medals. My thinking is that you should aim for the best you can do and then if you fall short, you fall short. At the moment, it’s possible I would go and ride all three events and try to take three golds if everything is perfect. But it won’t be easy.
I guess you can take confidence from some of the results you’ve already had on the track?
Yeah, definitely. The Worlds weren’t perfect this year, we were second in the team pursuit. And the omnium I should have won, really [Hayter finished 3rd]. It didn’t happen in the madison [where GB finished 7th] but then if you look back at the Euros last year, another high level championship event, I got third in the team pursuit, I won the omnium and came third in the aadison. So it’s pretty promising in terms of the Olympic events.
And then next year, with the Olympics around the corner, will it be all in for the track?
Yeah. I don’t know exactly what it’s going to look like next year. There will be a window between, say, mid-April and June where I might do a few road races, but I don’t really know for sure to be honest. There’s been a fair bit of planning done but I’ll probably find out a bit more nearer the time. But anyway, my focus will be on the track.