Mathew Hayman is a true “Flandrien” in every sense of the word – and we’ve got one of his bikes! Hayman raced for Rabobank & Sky before joining Australian WorldTour team Orica in 2014. Hayman spent most of his 17-year career working for others and only collected 3 wins: the Commonwealth Games road race, Paris-Bourges and Paris-Roubaix.
I remember watching “The Hell of the North” with my kids on that day in 2016, sitting on the edge of my seat as Hayman got away in the early breakaway. It was a smart move, driven by his experience of 14 previous attempts at the race. Once in the escape, he conserved energy and avoided all the carnage happening behind.
First the group numbered 16 but only Hayman had the staying power when the favorites bridged. He formed a group of 5 with Tom Boonen, Ian Stannard, Sep Vanmarcke & Edvald Boasson Hagen. On what is often the most crucial cobbled section, the Carrefour de L’Abre, Hayman was shouldered by Stannard as the British rider tried to make up ground. The Aussie braked to stay upright and was quickly distanced.
I freaked out and my son Charlie said “It’s just a bike race Dad – don’t give yourself a heart attack!” The television cameras lost Hayman and I thought that his shot at victory was over. I slumped into the sofa with my head between my hands. But then, by the end of the sector, Hayman appeared on the back of the group of 4 and I almost did have a heart attack as I leapt up from the sofa screaming ”You f****ng ripper! Go Matty! Charlie left the room.
As the small group entered the velodrome all bets were on the legendary Boonen, a former World Champion and Tour de France green jersey winner who was going for a record 5th Paris-Roubaix win. But I knew that sprinting after 260 kilometres is a very different thing to a conventional bunch sprint. It was a finish for the hard men.
As with many Aussies, Hayman had raced on the velodrome since he was a kid and knew his track craft well. He opened the final sprint early, came past Boonen with speed from the banking and had just enough in his legs to stay in front.
The win was Hayman’s third professional win – the man he beat into second, Tom Boonen had over 100 career wins. And I still have to curb my enthusiasm about Hayman’s victory a little bit when Flemish guests come to visit as Tom’s 2nd place remains something akin to a national tragedy
Oh, and what about the bike? It’s a Colnago C-50 Extreme Power that Hayman raced during his time at Rabobank when he was a fresh faced kid dreaming of a win in the classics.
We know Mathew personally, and for all of us at the Flandrien Hotel the bike embodies his Flandrien spirit of grit, determination, perseverance & humility.