Ethan Hayter will be back in the velodrome to defend his omnium world title this weekend but admits he does not know if will still be able to juggle road and track racing come the Paris Olympics.
Hayter has joined the likes of Dame Laura Kenny and Katie Archibald in a 20-strong Great Britain squad headed to the outskirts of the French capital for this week’s UCI Track Cycling World Championships, but he may not return when the same venue hosts the Olympic track cycling in 2024.
The 24-year-old made his name on the track, winning his first world title in 2018 as part of the team pursuit squad, but has shone on the road since joining the Ineos Grenadiers in 2020, claiming impressive wins at the Tour de Romandie and Tour of Poland this season.
Seen as a rider capable of following the likes of Sir Bradley Wiggins and Geraint Thomas in turning track prowess into a stellar road career, many wondered if last year’s rainbow jersey would be a track swansong, but Hayter sees it differently.
“It would obviously be easier for me not to do the track,” Hayter said. “But I think I enjoy it, it’s somewhere I can still win gold medals at the worlds and Olympics hopefully. I don’t see any reasons to stop doing it.
“You have to make decisions. You can’t do every race. Even on the road, you can’t do every race. You have to pick and choose and not do too much.”
The decisions will come even before Paris. Next year’s first combined world championships in Glasgow, bringing together the major disciplines at one event in a format the UCI plans to repeat every four years ahead of the Olympics, will force Hayter to choose due to schedule clashes.
But Hayter sees no reason why any break from the track would need to be permanent – a view shared, at least for now, by his Ineos team.
“I think as long as you’re clever with how it fits,” he added. “Sometimes it can be a benefit adding extra stimulus to your training from the track. If you look at (Mark Cavendish in 2016) he won everything that year when he was focusing on Rio.
“I think the team are always happy if you’re going well. Maybe if it’s not working they’d start asking some questions, but it’s all right.”
It has certainly served Hayter well to date. Last summer he and Matt Walls took Olympic Madison silver in Japan before he followed that up with a rainbow jersey in Roubaix.
Hayter described last year’s worlds as “a bit weird”, with several leading riders, and some entire squads, choosing to sit it out only a few weeks after the closing ceremony in Tokyo.
This year’s event will be the last big meeting before the start of Olympic qualifying, and a much stronger field is heading to Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines.
Hayter will race in the team pursuit, omnium and Madison. Britain’s pursuit squad, having last year lost the Olympic crown held since Beijing, has also lost the veteran Ed Clancy, who announced his retirement due to a back injury during the Tokyo Games.
Dan Bigham, who was working as a consultant for rival team Denmark last year, is back in the squad, a sign of the major changes in front of and behind the scenes at British Cycling in the last 12 months.
“We’re all pretty young,” Hayter said of the squad. “Dan is the least experienced potentially and he’s the oldest. Apart from Dan coming in, not much has changed. Obviously Ed was the team leader as you’d have it before – no one person is leading the team, we all communicate well and have a good laugh.”