Ethan Hayter heads into the middle week of the Vuelta a España optimistic of winning his first stage in a Grand Tour.
The Ineos Grenadiers rider is making his debut in a three-week race just weeks after winning the Tour of Poland, his first GC triumph in a WorldTour race.
Throughout the past three seasons the Londoner, who turns 24 on September 18, has belied his younger years, picking up 16 professional wins and emerging as a major rival to the likes of Wout van Aert, Mathieu van der Poel and Julian Alaphilippe on punchy courses, as well as holding his own in sprints and time trials.
Speaking to Cycling Weekly, Hayter described his first experience of a Grand Tour. “It’s been good so far. Compared to other races, like Paris-Nice or the [Critérium du] Dauphiné, it’s probably more relaxed, although it’s fast when you’re sat behind the motorbike.
“There’s been a couple of stages that could have gone differently, but it’s been good helping out the GC guys and staying out of trouble.”
His Ineos team have multiple options in play at the race, targeting high GC placings for Tao Geoghegan Hart, Pavel Sivakov, Carlos Rodríguez and Richard Carapaz, while also wanting to give chances to Hayter to win stages.
Stage 10 is a 31km time trial in Alicante, but the pan-flat course means that while Hayter will go well, he doesn’t back himself for victory.
“I prefer a more technical, up-and-down course,” he said. “One where you have to go hard over the climbs and recover on the descents.
“But generally I’ve been on the podiums in almost all of the time trials I’ve done, so I better have a go! It’d be rude not to, wouldn’t it?”
There are two punchy stages in the coming week that also lend themselves to Hayter’s characteristics. He added: “I had quite a bad day on stage six – for some reason I just didn’t feel great. But I’ve felt a lot better in the last few days so hopefully that’s a good sign.
“It depends what the route is, but there’s always opportunities. If it’s a summit finish then it will have to come from a breakaway as I’m not going to beat the GC guys on a climb. But we’ll see how the race plays out – I’ll definitely have a go at the TT.”
Hayter also reserved praise for his longtime friend and fellow VC Londres member Fred Wright who has came close to winning two stages. “Maybe it’s playing on his mind a bit [the pressure to win] but I don’t think he’s doing anything bad,” Hayter said. “What he’s doing is amazing.”