Ethan Hayter is just 23-years-old but after a dream of a season, he has fast-established himself as one of the UK’s star riders. An Olympic silver medal on the track in Tokyo has been accompanied by a slew of wins on the road; before the Nationals, he had already bagged eight UCI road race wins in 2021. And now, after wins in the National Time Trial Championships and the National Circuit Race Championships in Lincoln this week, he stands on the verge of achieving a historic treble as he lines up for the national road race.
We managed to squeeze in a quick catch-up with the Ineos Grenadiers rider on the eve race to find out how he thinks it will go…
I guess the most important question is, do you think they’ll be wearing white or black bibs next year with your national jerseys?
For the time trial, white. And I don’t know about the others, to be honest. Other, so far.
I am the favourite, obviously, after the last few days and stuff, but you just have to do your own race
Yes, of course, one jersey still to aim for. With the form you are in, and being on the verge ot the treble, are you putting pressure on yourself to win the road race?
There is always a bit of pressure on yourself, isn’t there? But if you didn’t feel that bit of pressure you wouldn’t be taking into account everything, really. I am the favourite, obviously, after the last few days and stuff, but you just have to do your own race at the same time and try and use that to your advantage if you can.
And you’ve ridden the Lincoln GP before, haven’t you, back in 2019, so you know the course?
I rode it in ’19, yeah. That was the first time, and only time actually, yeah.
You were 6th then, I think?
Yeah, yeah. I attacked quite a lot and then didn’t quite have it in the finish to be honest. I was still regaining some fitness after track and stuff. It was a fun day, actually, to be honest.
Do you remember much from that race? Are there things you can take from that experience and use it tomorrow in terms of how you play it?
A bit, but I think it’s going to be very different tomorrow with the level of the riders there is here. And when we did that race there was all this Tour of Britain qualifying nonsense [Ed: meaning that the domestic teams were riding tactically for qualification points]. I was riding for VCL which was quite fun but it also meant I was trying to basically get away with guys and then let them do the work for the Tour of Britain points, and I could sit on them. That was my plan then, but I can’t really do that here obviously!
So what is the plan tomorrow then?
There’s no specific plan, to be honest. You’re going to have to just see who’s moving when and the field quality is going to be super high with so many WorldTour guys or guys about to turn WorldTour.
In a way, you’re all riding for yourselves tomorrow, every rider would like to be national champion. To what extent will there be any teamwork with your teammates Owain Doull and Ben Swift, do you think?
Yeah, we’ll work together, definitely. I mean, every British Conti team is going to work together, so we should as well. I think it’s just going to be a really hard race, that’s my expectation.
Normally it’s flat out, isn’t it? And then it’s a massive battle to get to the bottom of Michaelgate first.
Yeah. It’s a bit of a weird circuit, to be honest. The actual Michaelgate climb’s not that hard, really, compared to a lot of other climbs. It’s pretty short and you can actually just ride up the gutter. If they barrier it tomorrow, that would be good. But if they don’t, you can just ride up the gutter and everyone flies up at their own pace, really. It generally comes back together at the top. But we’ll see how it goes tomorrow. It’ll be obviously a completely different field and lots of people looking to get away.
The last time you rode the nationals was in 2019, you won the under 23 national title. That ‘race within a race’ is dynamic is one Leo will be facing tomorrow. Were you conscious of that in 2019 or were you just racing for the outright win?
Ian Stannard had gone up the road and he had a few minutes by himself, and it was like, “oh, it’s Stannard, he’s going to win.” But then, because people were still trying to attack the bunch, the racing never really slowed down. I think five guys went, or something, with Swifty and Archibald and Bostock. And then another five of us, it was me, Blythe, Dowsett, Jake Stewart went across, and then somebody crashed, Sam Culverwell I think. I punctured, avoiding the crash, and I never saw the front of the race again.
If you pass up the opportunity of winning the pro race when you’re in a situation like that, it’s a wasted opportunity
But I was racing for the win, basically. You can’t really think about the under 23 race. If you pass up the opportunity of winning the pro race when you’re in a situation like that, it’s a wasted opportunity, really. It’s not that likely you get too many shots at it.
You’re an incredibly versatile rider, you’ve won in so many different ways this year...
I’ve actually not won by myself I don’t think.
Okay. No solo win yet. Maybe tomorrow then?
Maybe, who knows?!
Many thanks to Ethan for making time to talk ahead of race day, we appreciate it.