Ethan Hayter’s remarkable upward progress through the professional ranks continued apace on Friday as the 23-year-old race leader came safely through a fast, fraught final day of the Tour de Pologne to clinch his first-ever WorldTour stage race overall victory.
Ably guided through the final kilometers by teammate Jhonatan Narvaez, Hayter had a trouble-free ride to his sixth win of 2022 and the biggest of his career to date.
Equally on Thursday, Hayter became the first-ever British leader of the Tour de Pologne in its history of 92 years and 79 editions, thanks to a third place in the crucial stage 6 time trial. Then 24 hours later, he was celebrating being the first-ever British winner outright.
His victory both continues a run of notable success in Pologne for Ineos Grenadiers with overall wins in 2018 with Michal Kwiatkowski and 2019 with Pavel Sivakov, as well as underlining the race’s role in revealing new talent.
While this year has seen wins for riders as young as Thymen Arensman (Team DSM), 22, in the time trial, and Olav Kooij, 20, in the opening stage for Jumbo-Visma, there were also three Ineos Grenadiers racers in their early 20s in the top six in the time trial (Hayter, Magnus Sheffield and Ben Tulett). And other years have seen wins for Sivakov at 22 in 2019, Evenepoel aged 20 in 2020, a youthful Peter Sagan in 2011 and Dan Martin in 2010 and even, way back in 2003, Alberto Contador’s first ever win as a pro, in the Tour the Pologne time trial.
“They told me yesterday that I was the first British person to lead the race, so it’s quite nice to get my name in the books,” Hayter told a small group of reporters afterwards.
“The team has won this race quite a few times with Kwiato’ and Pavel and it’s nice to keep that going. It’s just a shame that Kwiato” – injured recently after a crash while training – “couldn’t be here to see it.”
For Hayter too, there have been 15 wins prior to Friday in a little over two years as a pro, but taking his first stage race at WorldTour level is, he said, “massive.”
“To win a WorldTour stage race is a big achievement and it’s nice to have that in my palmares.”
An 11th place in the front group on the only summit finish of the race on stage 3 put in him in a great place to go for the overall win in the time trial, he agreed, as well as boosting his confidence in his first race back after several weeks of training.
“I felt good that stage, at one stage they really sprinted for it at the bottom of the climb and I thought I’ll just have to pace myself and go for it in the time trial,” Hayter said. “But I came back, lost no time, it was a little bit too late to sprint, but it came down to the time trial and it was just enough.”
Hayter thanked Narvaez for his solid work on the front on stage 7, on a day when he was in line for the win, but the frequent late crashes in Pologne were never too far from anybody’s mind.
“It was quite messy and we were doing our best to stay together as a team and Johnny was super-strong every day,” Hayter said. “He went like a motorbike, we got to the three kilometers out of trouble, it was perfect.”
Although he only had an 11-second lead on Arensman, the Dutchman said afterwards that he had not tried to stage a last-minute surprise.
“For sure it wasn’t possible, I would have had the whole Ineos squad on my wheel,” Arensman said. “We were happy with second as a team and if it had been two seconds or three then the race would have been more open, but this was too much.
“There were also a lot of sprinters pushing for a bunch sprint and we have some sprinters in our team, too, so we were fine with second.”
While Arensman would not be drawn on where he may be racing next season, only that it would not be with Team DSM, as was established earlier this year, he said, for Hayter the news this week that his brother Leo will be joining him at Ineos Grenadiers next season made only made a successful week even more special.
“It’s really exciting, he’s coming on a lot this year and it’s been great to see,” Hayter said.
The next target in any case is getting a place on the Vuelta a España lineup. Hayter does not yet know if he’ll be going, but as he agreed, winning the overall of the Tour de Pologne will not have done his chances any harm.
“It definitely helps and hopefully I’ll get my first Grand Tour,” he said, “it’s going to be quite exciting.”