A taste of heaven in Hell: Mathew Hayman (VI/VI)
April 5 th 2018 - 11:46
Luck and fortune are sometimes a decisive factor in Paris–Roubaix. Twists of fate, false moves and strategic blunders can all make the favourites' best-laid plans go awry. Opportunists who fish in troubled waters can become heroes for a day and get a taste of glory in the Hell of the North. In 2016, with Fabian Cancellara riding his last Paris-Roubaix and Tom Boonen starting to imagine a fairy tale ending to his own career, Mathew Hayman bounced back from injury to win a thrilling sprint in the Velodrome.
Mathew Hayman had a dreadful start to the season. The veteran rider had fractured a radius bone in his first race on European soil, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, which traditionally marks the start of the Belgian classics season. With just five weeks left until his favourite race, Orica-GreenEDGE doctors counted him down and out for Paris-Roubaix. Hayman, however, was determined to ride the Hell of the North for the 15th time and kept clocking up kilometres on a home trainer set up in the privacy of his garage. Simply making it to the start line in Compiègne on 10 April was a monumental achievement, but no-one took notice! As usual, all eyes were on world champion Peter Sagan, who had just won the Tour of Flanders and was poised to take the fight to Fabian Cancellara and Tom Boonen on their own turf. Hayman went into the break of the day in an all-or-nothing gamble.
Although the leading group blew apart as soon as the first shots were fired, the move paid off for Hayman, who found himself in an elite group centred around Boonen and clung on throughout the fierce onslaught. Only Vanmarcke, Stannard and Boasson Hagen were left with Boonen and Hayman at the entrance to the Carrefour de l'Arbre. A flurry of attacks in the final 15 kilometres failed to dislodge any of the five riders before the group entered the Velodrome. Going up against such formidable sprinters as Boonen and Boasson Hagen, the odds seemed stacked against Hayman, but Orica-GreenEDGE's selfless 37-year-old domestique, towering at a height of 190 cm, bested Tornado Tom by a bike length. It was "deliciously cruel", as L'Équipe put it the next day!