A member of the growing Aussie contingent in the pro bunch, and now the powerful Team Rabobank, Matthew Hayman is on the phone after stage 4 in Paris-Nice. He sounds laid-back, reserved even, perhaps due more to the high speed chasing of the CSC team than a stereotype of his Australian heritage would suggest.
His sense of humour, salted with a dry-wit, is evident as we chat across a continent and the Atlantic Ocean.
– Pro since 2000
– Lives in Belgium, near Maastricht, to be closer to teammates, riders, and the rolling hills.
– Half way through October he heads back to Canberra, Australia – where his parents live.
– Has an Australian girlfriend, Kym Shirley who races in Italy near Bergamo for the Gianocci team. Lucky for Matt, she understands as a racer the demands of the schedule and travel.
ON TO THE INTERVIEW…
Pez: Hi Matt – Is it okay if I record this conversation… to make sure I get all the dirt you might want to give me?
Matt: … Or might NOT want to give you!
Pez: Have you ever heard of us by the way?
Matt: Ah, no I haven’t. I tend to get a lot of my information off another website you might have heard of… Cycling News…
Pez: Oh yeah, I have heard of those guys – yeah. We’re actually somewhat like them, except with a “PEZ” in front of it. Well okay, we’re a lot different. Actually, as hopefully this interview will show…
PARIS-NICE: There’s No Life Like It
Pez: So I’m just looking over the results from today’s Paris-Nice stage in fact I’m reading CyclingNews !
Matt: (starts laughing…)
Pez: You finished 23rd today, how was the stage and how are you feeling?
Matt: Yeah – I only just held on to the bunch with about 40km to go… It was supposed to be a Cat. 3 climb… but I guess you can make any climb a Cat. 3 climb if you put the KoM after about 2km, and then you have another 5 km to climb after that. So I went past the KoM and I think a lot of guys thought we were at the top, and then it kept climbing, for another 5 km, and there was more and more snow along the side of the road, and that was getting a little bit worrying.
I was fairly happy that I was still in the group, but I started to get a little bit sick today. Yesterday I was feeling really really good – I made the top group of 35, but today – not as good.
Pez: What’s the mood in the bunch today after yesterday’s big shake-up by CSC?
Matt: Well, I think there are still a lot of people scratchin’ their heads, wondering “how did that happen”? Bike racing has a little bit of a plan, a little bit of a storyline about the way races tend to go… and yesterday definitely set the cat among the pigeons… we just came round a corner and it was still 60-70 km to go, and all of a sudden there are 8 guys away from one team!…
There are still a couple of theories going ‘round like maybe a couple of guys went off the road… but it was just chaos – everybody goin’ different ways… looking around for their g.c. rider trying to find out where he is and get him near the front. Then before you knew it the bunch was in so many different little groups…
Pez: How is the speed of the racing right now – is it typical for Paris-Nice, faster, slower?
Matt: Well before I came here I heard from a few other guys that Paris-Nice is ridden a lot harder and faster than a Tirreno – the Italian riders tend to take it a little bit easier out of the start, then you kind of build into… but Paris-Nice is really on the rivet. It’s my first Paris-Nice.
Pez: What is your role in the team right now?
Matt: Well, if Eric hadn’t have lost 4 minutes yesterday, it would have been to look after those guys, go away with early breaks and make sure you’ve got somebody there so that you don’t have to try and chase all day, it’s always a lot easier race when you’ve got somebody in the breakaway. Now as a team we’re trying to get something out of this Tour, and the best way is to look at the stages. And I’m still preparing pretty much for the Classics too, so although I’m here to help the team out, help Robbie out in the Sprints (although today it didn’t really work out…). I’m still preparing for Flanders, Ghent-Wevelgem, Paris-Roubaix – those races kind of suit me…
LOVING THE CLASSICS
Pez: What will you be looking for at the Classics…
Matt: Well, Ghent-Wevelgem, which is a little but smaller and easier than the other ones… is one I could go well at… I was in the front group last year. But Flanders I still think is probably a little bit far off for me, I’ll be riding for the team there, Boogerd rode really well last year and showed he’s a contender to win that race – he’d never done much of that Belgian style of racing before and then he rode really well.
And then you get to Roubaix… and that’s just a different kind of race. I went really well there last year, I think I was 25 or 26th, so I was in that group that was just behind the front group.
For Roubaix, Mark Wauters will probably be the guy for our team, although he doesn’t like to be singled out as the team leader – ever – he just prefers to get on with the job. And he does. He won a stage of the Tour de France, wore the Yellow Jersey, but he doesn’t want the pressure of the team leader, have people follow him around all day. And if he helps somebody else out the that’s good, and if the opportunity comes then he tries to win for himself. But I know that Paris-Roubaix is a race he really, really likes and last year I think he was about 5th. So first and foremost I work for him, but last year I showed I can get to the finish in striking distance, so we’ll have to wait and see.
It’s hard, and you get dirty, and you fall off a few times. But that’s why you go to ride Roubaix…
Pez: We’ve talked to a lot of riders about what makes Flanders and Roubaix so special – what makes them so special for you?
Matt: Um… I don’t know…it’s just so different. I’ve ridden it (Roubaix) a few times now, and the first time I finished 40 minutes down… and I remember waking up before my first Roubaix and thinking… if there’s anything I ever do, it’s gonna be getting to that track in Roubaix, I want to ride around that track, have a shower in those stone showers in Roubaix… that would be an achievement. I’ve turned pro now and that’s something else I want to do now… I mean I couldn’t even fathom riding over 60kms of cobbles in a 260km race.
You know I say to people… It’s hard, and you get dirty, and you fall off a few times. But that’s why you go to ride Roubaix… It hurts a lot more when you fall off somewhere else, because you don’t expect it. I mean you wake up in the morning of Roubaix and, you expect to go through a whole lot of pain, you expect to ride over a whole lot of cobbles, so you psych yourself up so much in the last week to do all that, and there’s that many people on the course cheering everyone on… it’s just an awesome race. There’s only one Roubaix….
Pez: What about Flanders- what makes it stand out for you?
Matt: Ah… the crazy Belgians (starts laughing). The whole of Flanders just stops for that day, and driving all over in their cars… people aren’t even looking at the race, they’re just trying to see it as many times as they can… When you ride towards an intersection, they’re already running to their cars to drive to the next place and they haven’t even seen anybody come past…
Pez: Yeah – that’s gonna be me!
Matt: They spend years planning it, and have televisions in there cars…
LIFE AS A PRO: They Get An Idea Pretty Quick What You’re Made Of
Pez: Now that you’ve been a pro for 4 years, what has changed about it for you, is it still a job?
Matt: Well, what changes…? Well you’re an amateur, and you do it cuz you like the sport, and you get to the next level, and you come to Europe and you try and have a go over here, and you give yourself a certain amount of time, and say if don’t turn pro and start making some money out of this, then I’ll give it up and that time never came for me and I turned pro, so I made the next step. And then you think, I’ll try and get through my two year contract and try and get another one, and the first two years are hardest for young people. They get an idea pretty quick of what you’re made of… then every year it’s trying to better the results from last year.
It does change, when you first come over you’re full of ambitions and now you kind of put on more clothes when it’s cold, and kind of hang back a bit more and maybe aren’t so aggressive… but when you get into it in the Classics and know you have to put yourself on the line, you do it. And you do become a little bit wiser, and get into the routine of the bunch. You have a lot more people that you talk to… It’s a job, but just because you get paid at the end of the month, doesn’t make it any easier to get out and do those training rides when you’re back home and it’s cold and windy and raining or whatever, so although it is work, even for the best guys… it doesn’t matter how much you’re paid when you have to do that kind of stuff.
And Finally, The Obligatory BEER & PODIUM GIRLS Discussion
Pez: As an Aussie, your countrymen are reknowned for their love of fine beers and ales… would you count yourself among that group?
Matt: Ummm… not really… I don’t mind a glass of wine when we go out, and I don’t mind a couple of the Belgian beers though…
Pez: What do you recommend for beers I should be sampling in Belgium?
Matt: Leffe – I don’t mind a dark Leffe, they’re pretty easy to come by here, but you may also get into a few “trapistes” (Note: Bert Roesems warned us about these…- ed.)
Matt: Are you listening to me? You ask for a triple – it’s like 3 times the alcohol. Have a couple of those and you’ll be falling all over the place! And if you want a girly beer, you might want to get a Kirke cheery-flavoured, purple colored beer.
But I think you‘ll have a lot of fun if the weather is nice – riding the amateur Tour of Flanders on the Saturday before the race. My brother did it and really enjoyed it. You’ll get a different perspective of the race when you know what we’re riding over…
Pez: What’s your favorite country for Podium Girls?
Matt: Agh! – I haven’t been near a Podium Girl for a lonnngg time! Any Podium Girl would be fine, if I could get near the podium I’d be happy…!
With any luck we’ll say hello to Matt again when the PEZ-Crew invades Belgium next week, and maybe even see him get nearer a podium!
Get more info at the Rabobank Team Website – and brush up on your Dutch… www.Rabobank.nl/info