• Paris-Roubaix defending champion Mathew Hayman. (Getty)Source: Getty
Mathew Hayman told tens of thousands of Belgian cycling fans that he’d retire alongside Tom Boonen he if beat him again at Paris-Roubaix, but the defending champion is not likely to keep his musing word despite admitting it is “on the horizon”.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
7 Apr 2017 - 12:28 PM 

Hayman is off-contract at Orica-Scott and at 38 years of age is obviously closer to the tail-end of his career. He admits retirement has increasingly become part of his vernacular but remains adamant that his career 16th start at the Monument on Sunday won’t be his last.

“It’s a strange thing. I have been spending a bit of time thinking about it and it’s on the horizon. I can’t deny it,” Hayman said. “I have been in a bit of denial, I haven’t planned anything after stopping but deep down I can’t see myself stopping this year, barring any kind of injury. Not doing the summer of riding in Australia, and a few other things, somewhere says to me it would be the wrong way to stop.

“My wife is coping very well with [newborn] twins at home when I have been away, which was also a factor in the unknown of how is this going to affect us as a family if she was on a downward spiral and just coping. But family life is really good at the moment and I’m still enjoying it so why wouldn’t you keep going?”

Speaking to Cycling Central with an Orica-Scott media manager in the background, Hayman was so relaxed ahead of the race he reveres that he even joked about phoning Quick-Step Floors boss Patrick Lefevere regarding his future, before assuring he had designs to stay at his current stable.

“Lefevere picks up old riders every now and again, when they’re kind of done and dusted, like Philippe Gilbert, so who knows,” he said of the recently crowned Tour of Flanders champion.

Hayman despite his standing at Roubaix this year made a point of praising younger teammate Luke Durbridge, who has shown his potential in the spring classics this season mixing it with the best.

“This team has missed having one rider that’s going so well. It brings the rest of the team together and there are no ifs and buts about what you need to do. I guess in the past we’ve had a few guys at that sub-top level just having to be opportunistic in the races, look for any chances and you just miss a bit of that cohesiveness,” he said.

“With Luke, even on Sunday, sure it means the rest of us don’t get the results we’re possibly capable of, but there is a bit more sense of achievement when you help somebody. Okay, he wasn’t exactly where he probably wanted to be after the form he had the weeks leading in, but he was sprinting there in a group for fifth place at the Tour of Flanders, so I think that just instils more confidence in him. I think we’ll see this team growing in these races.”

Asked if that meant he would, even as defending champion, go all-in for 25-year-old Durbridge, Hayman, who has carved a career as a valuable super domestique said: “I’m not saying that necessarily”.

“There’s a lot of racing that goes on before the final of Roubaix as you know. I’d like to get to the final and I need to get through all of that mess first,” he said.

“Luke and I can have a pretty man-to-man conversation at that point. We’re probably both the same personality where we’re too quick to help each other. One of us will have to put their hand up and say I want to take this to the finish line. That’s an ideal situation but so much can happen in this race.

“I’m definitely putting my hand up to be in the final again. Then I’m honest enough to tell the boys how the legs are, if I’m there but struggling, I’m a teammate wanting to help out. That said, I need to back myself if I am having an okay day to go to the line.”

Who will win Paris-Roubaix?
Pain, hardship and cobbles. Dust… dust that sticks to your face, your jersey, your chain and gets down your throat as you take an ill-advised gulp of air. 55 kilometres of riding over loose-fitting chunks of rock that have seen countless generations of tractors rumbling over them from nearby farming communities. Yes, it's time for Paris-Roubaix.

Boonen will end an illustrious and well-documented career at Paris-Roubaix. Hayman said the four-time champion is, for that and general form, the favourite going in.

“He’s such a big champion and he’s been in so many high-pressure scenarios I don’t think his retirement is going to change the way he rides on Sunday,” Hayman said. “His tactics, the way he looks for any opportunity, he’s a bit unpredictable. He can win from a sprint but he’s also happy to go from 50km to go. All eyes are going to be on him, from the press and other riders. He’s the marked man, but that’s never bothered him in the past.”

Hayman, however, will be focused on pinning the No.1 on his back for the first time and riding his own race.

“Most times I get to the velodrome and I’m bitterly disappointed. I’ve either had a puncture or made a mistake or felt let down. You build yourself up so much for the one day and then it’s over. Even last year, it brought everything I could ever dream of but the other 15 years there was always something. It’s an emotional day for me whatever happens, win, lose or draw,” he said.