1. Breaking your arm six weeks before a race means you can’t win it
Normally breaking your arm would mean you wouldn’t be able to compete at all, which is exactly what the doctors told Hayman following his fractured radius sustained at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
Nobody expected him to front up at Paris-Roubaix, one of the toughest races on the calendar, much less win it.
2. You need form to win a race
Making it to the start line after a serious injury is all well and good, but without the racing form, you aren’t going to be a contender. At least in normal circumstances. Hayman’s previous best finish this season was 28th and his most recent outing was a 103rd position in La Rioja, a very different style of riding to Paris-Roubaix.
Going up against the other four riders in the final group he was expected to have no chance. While the others honed their strong race form at earlier cobbled classics, Hayman rode intervals on the home trainer, nursing his arm. Normally, he'd be too undercooked to even finish the race.
3. You can’t win after being dropped
On what is often the most crucial section of cobbles, the Carrefour de L’Abre, Hayman copped a hard shoulder from Ian Stannard (Team Sky) as the British rider tried to make up ground on the inside of a corner. Hayman lost all momentum as he tried to maintain balance, and was quickly distanced.
The television cameras stopped following him and the shot at victory looked over, especially with the hot pace being set by Sep Vanmarcke (Lotto NL-Jumbo). By the end of the sector, Hayman appeared on the back of the group of four chasing Vanmarcke, one could be forgiven for thinking he had come from the clouds.
4. You’re a Domestique, you can’t win
Cycling has a distinct hierarchy, and riders like Hayman have made a career out of being teammates for the best riders in the bunch. Hayman is typically referred to as a ‘road captain’ these days, a rider with the nous and experience to know when to make tactical calls during a race, but not the rider that everyone works for.
The win was Hayman’s third professional win, the man he beat into second, Tom Boonen (Etixx-Quickstep), has 109 career wins. It wasn’t supposed to happen.
5. 37-year-olds are ‘over the hill’
A lot of riders get pigeon-holed when they get past a certain age, or are constantly asked when they are going to retire. Hayman proved there’s still capacity for growth, even with his advanced years, taking a win that will go down as the biggest in his career.
6. Riders in early moves can’t win
Think of your traditional race, the early move goes, with small names of the sport from the less fancied teams getting some television exposure for their sponsors. Capturing them is a formality, and from there the favourites can fight out the race amongst themselves.
This is a case where it is a feature of Paris-Roubaix, rather than Hayman specifically, which defies the norm. There is no place to hide from the cobbles in Paris-Roubaix, whether in the break or the peloton and it is very possible for a strong rider to hang on once the favourites catch up to the front of the race.
This is why the initial move was so hotly contested, with over two hours of flat out racing before the eventual breakaway was formed.
7. You need to be a sprinter to win a sprint
Sprinting after 260 kilometres of hard racing is a very different beast to a conventional bunch sprint. Under normal circumstances, Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) would win nine out of ten sprints, but he was fifth of five in the Roubaix velodrome.
The Australian is a good lead-out man, more renowned for his positioning than his power, but he was the one with the gangly victory salute over the line, beating a former Tour de France green jersey winner in Tom Boonen.
It was a finish for the hard men, and Hayman ground it out to the line, giving no one the opportunity to pass him after leading around the final corner.
At the end of the race, Hayman could scarcely believe he’d won, wandering around seemingly in a daze. He wasn’t the only one that couldn’t believe it, the ‘conventional wisdom’ above would suggest that everything would play against him winning.
Mathew Hayman has now written himself into the history books as being a man who doesn’t need to play by the rules.