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Who is Paris-Roubaix winner Mat Hayman?

Josh Cunningham
12 Apr 2016

A long-known Classics protagonist to some, and a familiar domestique to others. Who is Mat Hayman?

We didn't get the chance to make the trip out to watch Paris-Roubaix from the roadsides this year, but nonetheless made the effort to get ourselves to the nearest big screen to watch events unfold in company.

Come the final kilometres of the race, with attacks poleaxing the front group, the scenes at Brixton Cycles in South London were of an excitable raucous: When Boonen seemed to have a gap there were cries of encouragement; when Stannard began to come over the top on the velodrome's back straight there were shrieks of encouragement, and when the final gallop for the line began there was just an inaudible cacophony of noise. But when the crowd collectively watched an Orica-Greenedge rider cross the line first, it seemed that - in complete reflection of Mat Hayman's contorted face on screen - nobody really knew what to think.

While few would have had their money on Hayman as the riders lined up in Compiegne on Sunday morning, and a portion of the cycling sphere has seemingly dedicated more attention to Tom Boonen being denied a record 5th victory, his victory is perfect testament to the enthralling unpredictability of bike racing. But for those who, clasping the backs of their heads and looking around in confusion on Sunday afternoon, felt that the result was amiss, we can assure you there is a back story.

Hayman turned pro in 2000 with the then called Rabobank team - the Dutch outfit now operating under LottoNL-Jumbo sponsorship - where he spent 9 years riding in the company of both Classics and Grand Tour stars alike, building a reputation as a dependable domestique and consistent Classics rider, as well as winning the Commonwealth Games Road Race in 2006. The Rabobank Classics team was led by Spaniard Juan Antonia Flecha, and it was in the company of Flecha that Hayman departed the Rabobank set-up.

Following 4th place at Gent-Wevelgem in 2009, he joined Flecha in a move to Team Sky for the British team's inaugural 2010 season, and continued to develop his palmares there with podium places at Het Nieuwsblad and Dwaars door Vlaanderen, as well as 8th place at Paris-Roubaix in 2012. 

A quieter couple of years accompanied his move to Orica-Greenedge in 2014, and Hayman receded slightly from the forefront of Classics contention. Indeed, when he crashed and broke his arm at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in February this year, it was assumed that his 2016 spring campaign would also be devoid of memorable results. 

But after a road to recovery that included little more than repetitive sessions on his indoor trainer, and a pair of UCI 1.1 races in Spain on the weekend preceding Roubaix, Hayman dismounted his bike in the velodrome as the winner of the Queen of the Classics. 

As Hayman describes in an interview with Velonews: 'Roubaix is a race that throws up a special winner every few years. It’s guys like Vansummeren or O’Grady [who won in '06 and '11 respectively], they’ve always been up there, in the front, racing well, and if the stars align, like they did for me today, it’s possible.' 

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