'Hell' on wheels - Hayman ready to spoil Boonen party again

Barnaby CHESTERMAN
Australia's Mathew Hayman rides on the cobblestones during the 114th edition of the Paris-Roubaix one-day classic cycling race, between Compiegne and Roubaix, on April 10, 2016

A year ago Mathew Hayman came from nowhere to stun Tom Boonen and deny the Belgian star a record-extending fifth Paris-Roubaix triumph.

Now back at the 'Hell of the North', Hayman, less than two weeks before turning 39, believes he can spoil the Boonen party once again.

Paris-Roubaix was the race more than any other that made Boonen the star that he is today.

And fittingly, the 36-year-old has decided to end his career here, where he has already tasted victory four times.

But Hayman outsprinted him in the Roubaix velodrome a year ago and says he wouldn't mind ruining Boonen's farewell celebration at the end of Sunday's gruelling 257km race.

"I'd be up for that," said the Australian, who nonetheless knows he's got his work cut out.

"It's taken me 15 years to get to that point and this race is so hard, it can be so cruel and it can be over so quickly.

"I'm going in there pretty positive. My form is not too bad and I have the experience behind me. I know how to do it now, so I'm looking forward to another great day in hell!"

Hayman is at an age when most people have already retired from cycling and he is actually a couple of years older than Boonen.

But he pointed to the back-to-back Roubaix wins 25 years ago of Frenchman Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle at the age of 37 and 38 as evidence that age need not be a barrier.

"Just look at Duclas-Lassalle who won at 37, 38 -- we've had very different careers, I've not been under the pressure that Tom's been under day in day out.

"I've had it for a week now and I can't even imagine what he's had to go through for his whole career. It's just a totally different way and I fully understand Tom's ready to do something else.

"It takes a bit more energy if he's had to go through this most of his career since he was here (the first time) in 2002."

Hayman was part of a long-range breakaway last year before latching onto a small group of favourites once the escapees had been caught.

With the favourites focussing on each other, Hayman hung in there inconspicuously before taking a stunning victory, and he says he'll be eyeing any opportunity he can get on Sunday.

"Hopefully I can be active, I don't need to wait around. The classics have shown this year that anybody who's aggressive and on the front foot has been rewarded."

Whatever happens, the 2006 Commonwealth Games champion says no-one can ever take away from him the greatest moment of his career.

"In some ways my career's been justified -- if that's the only thing anybody remembers me by is that I won Paris-Roubaix, I'm pretty happy with that."

Anything can happen at the 'Queen of the Classics', though, and with 55km of bumpy cobblestones to negotiate on the way to Roubaix there is a lot of hard racing to come.

But Orica's Hayman can't wait.

"It is a great race -- I'm just happy to be back and be on the cobbles again and part of such a special race."