A dou­ble in­ter­view with Orica’s Clas­sics duo

Procycling - - Contents - I n ter­view: Sam Dan­sie Por t ra i ts: Chr is Auld

Where did you first start com­ing across each other in the pelo­ton?

MITCH DOCKER: I came into the pelo­ton in 2009 and Mat was al­ready rac­ing over­seas. He was some­one I re­ally looked up to in the clas­sics be­cause that’s what I wanted to do. And then when I was in the pelo­ton I was like, ‘Whoa, where should I go, where should I be?’ and I just looked for where Mat was. He was just a good wheel to fol­low be­cause he was al­ways in a great po­si­tion. I just fol­lowed him around. He was al­ready a guy I looked up to. Then when I got to know him I just started speak­ing to him as an­other Aussie and ask­ing him ques­tions...

MAT HAY­MAN: And he was left dis­ap­pointed! MD: Yeah, I was like, ‘Ac­tu­ally yeah, he is a bit of a dick­head!’ Nah, Mat was re­ally good, giv­ing me ad­vice. And we just be­came – not re­ally friends – but we just knew each other through the pelo­ton. Then when he fi­nally came onto GreenEdge we be­came mates.

MH: My first mem­ory was of this Sk­ilShi­mano kid in the Clas­sics. Mitch was get­ting in breaks and I was like, ‘Who’s this Aussie kid?’ Ev­ery year new names pop up, and he was some­one a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent. He was in a Dutch team, I came through the Dutch sys­tem, so here was an­other Aussie in the same sys­tem.

Re­mem­ber any pearls of wis­dom you doled out Mat?

MD: Prob­a­bly more like, ‘Just get out my bloody way!’ We also weren’t liv­ing too far from each other and that was good. Graeme Brown was on Rabobank. At that point we were all just 40 or 50km away from each other. It just sort of felt like they were there if things got re­ally tough, but we only met up a few times.

Pro­cy­clingstats says you’ve done 38 races to­gether while on Orica-Scott – mostly in the Clas­sics. You’re ob­vi­ously a bit of a pair­ing.

MH: We both fall in and out of the lead-out, so that is two things we’ve got in com­mon, that we can talk about and an­a­lyse. I think we see eye to eye on a lot of dif­fer­ent parts of the sport. And also we talk a lot about psy­chol­ogy and how that in­flu­ences races.

How do you mean?

MH: Just our own ex­pe­ri­ences. What works, what doesn’t and how we feel. It’s just like with any group: there are some guys that you can con­nect with on that level be­cause you think about the same kind of things and know how much this sport is on the men­tal side, that re­sults of­ten come when riders are in a cer­tain space. I’d say they’re the things that con­nect us re­ally: the lead-out, the Clas­sics and some of the psy­cho­log­i­cal as­pects. And we talk about train­ing also.

MD: It’s as if we’re try­ing to work out the team dy­nam­ics, who works well with who and why this or that worked. It’s not the phys­i­cal side of things but more like why did that com­bi­na­tion work and what fired that guy up.

Mat, you made your Tour de­but late in your ca­reer and you’re still to race it, Mitch. Do you feel there’s a gap there?

MD: I want to do the Tour for peo­ple who ask that ques­tion, pretty much! But I don’t have a real con­nec­tion with the Tour. I think it’s a fan­tas­tic race, one that I grew up with, but if you were to say to me, you’ve got one more Roubaix or one more Flan­ders, I’d pick that. They’re the races I con­nect with and if I miss those races then I re­ally feel like there’s some­thing missing in my sea­son. Maybe I’ll have a dif­fer­ent con­nec­tion if I do the Tour some day. At this mo­ment I’d love to do it but it’s not the be-all and end-all.

So I guess you get that sense of Tour clo­sure then Mat?

MH: I do, and it’s easy for me to say this now that I’ve done it but it doesn’t change any­thing. But that’s be­cause I’ve got to the Champs-Elysées. It’s a great ex­pe­ri­ence and I wouldn’t change it. And it is just so you can say, ‘I’ve done the Tour.’ That be­ing said, it is good to break it down and be at the top of your sport and be in those

"You get close to the Clas­sics and can smell Bel­gium and you start to do the lead- up races. Then you get smashed and you're dis­ap­pointed year af­ter year"

high-pres­sure sit­u­a­tions. That’s what makes the Tour hard: the pres­sure around it. As ath­letes that’s where you want to be – at the big­gest races and un­der pres­sure.

Then the pres­sure of the Clas­sics must be some­thing you thrive on?

MH: It’s a funny thing though. We didn’t know when we started rid­ing bikes in Aus­tralia and go­ing to club crits that they’d get un­der our skin. But they’re what mo­ti­vates you to do the long days and the big stuff. As you get close to the Clas­sics and can smell Bel­gium and you start to do the lead-up races… and then you get smashed and you’re dis­ap­pointed again, year af­ter year af­ter year.

MD: That’s what I was go­ing to say. Now [in Septem­ber] they seem beau­ti­ful. We talk about the Clas­sics as th­ese beau­ti­ful, ro­man­tic races, but I tell you what, when you’re there, they’re re­ally not that beau­ti­ful at all. They’re hell. And you won­der… many times I won­der why I love th­ese races when I’m there hat­ing them, but a month later, I can’t wait to get back there.

What was your first ex­pe­ri­ence of the Clas­sics, Mitch?

MD: 2009, with Sk­ilShi­mano. It was re­ally bad. Ev­ery­one thought I was go­ing to be… not ev­ery­one – the team – thought I was go­ing to be a good Clas­sics rider with my shape and style, but I only fin­ished one race that year. I just got smashed and I re­mem­ber think­ing, ‘You know what, I don’t think I’m go­ing to be a pro­fes­sional if this is the way.’ But that is the step­ping stone. You need to go in there, get your­self smashed and come back, get smashed again, and again, and again and fi­nally you get it and it re­ally does click: you know the roads...

MH: That’s the big one, know­ing the area. If you’re com­ing as a ju­nior or an am­a­teur from Aus­tralia it’s hard. You don’t know which cor­ner is very im­por­tant, which is slightly im­por­tant and which isn’t im­por­tant at all. You can run rings around some­one who doesn’t know the roads – it’s that easy.

MD: So true.

Mat did you have any sim­i­larly ex­is­ten­tial mo­ments?

MH: I think I prob­a­bly had the same kind of feel­ing with Roubaix when I turned pro. A lot of soigneurs and me­chan­ics said it

was the race for me and I got smashed a lot of times. I did start en­joy­ing the race but I did end up think­ing ‘I’m not get­ting any­where here’. It took a few years. Your ex­pe­ri­ences at Roubaix in 2016 couldn't have con­trasted more. While Mat won it, you were in hospi­tal, Mitch, af­ter a se­vere pile-up in the Aren­berg For­est. [Docker frac­tured his eye socket, broke six teeth and badly cut his tongue in the crash]. Did Mat’s win in any way make what had hap­pened to you feel any bet­ter?

MH: I’ll start. You don’t have to say yes be­cause I know it wouldn’t for me.

MD: What Mat’s win did was give me be­lief. Not only in that race but just be­lief in my own ca­reer again. At that mo­ment I was like, ‘It can be done.’ Exactly what Mat just said: you go in and it feels like a moun­tain and you’re not get­ting any­where in this race. Then you get a glim­mer one year and that keeps you go­ing for a few years. But af­ter that crash I was like… maybe it just de­feated me. Then when I heard Mat had won and it was… MH: He’s just a nor­mal guy? MD: Exactly, but I didn’t want to say that. I didn’t want to down­play it but Mat’s not a freak like Tom Boo­nen or Fabian Cancellara. He’s a hard-work­ing guy, and if Mat can do it that in­spired me that maybe I can be up there too. That was pretty much what in­spired me to get back train­ing.

MH: I think it did for Luke Dur­bridge and you and Jens Keukeleire. To be able to say, we train with this guy, we know his num­bers and it’s not Peter Sa­gan, so if you just plug away at it… And it might not be Roubaix - it could be a stage some­where in the Tour or some­thing, when you have one of those days when ev­ery­thing goes right and you grab hold of it with two hands.

Mat’s ca­reer’s been long...

MH: Painfully long.

...and he keeps at it – what do you make of it, Mitch?

MD: It shows the love. There are plenty of outs. Many times through the sea­son there are points where you can get out of it and it just shows the pas­sion’s still there. It’s hard, hard work com­ing back ev­ery year. The races are one thing, but just the train­ing as well and liv­ing the life­style.

Mat you re­newed again for 2018. You’re 39. Are you look­ing be­yond that?

MH: Ah look, I’m more and more see­ing next year like it could be the last one and it’s hard to say. This year didn’t seem like it was the right time to re­tire. But when do you know it’s the right time? So next year when I start some of th­ese races, if I start get­ting the feel­ing this could be the last time I do it, it could be a bit dif­fer­ent. Or do I just leave it to the end of the year so I don’t go through that whole process of say­ing, ‘This is my last Na­tion­als, my last Roubaix…’ That’s prob­a­bly the only one I’d strug­gle with leav­ing.

Luke Dur­bridge has been kick­ing on the last cou­ple of years. Do you see more to come from him?

MH: I don’t think you’ll find big­ger fans of Luke than us two.

MD: I think more on his cards at the mo­ment is a Flan­drian clas­sic. He’s closer to get­ting a big re­sult there than, say, at Roubaix. That’s not to say Roubaix is out of his realm, but it’s just the way he’s shown him­self in Bel­gium. Roubaix’s a funny one be­cause you do it once a year, whereas the Flan­drian races you do five or six times a year on the same roads. He’s ready now. I re­ally feel last year was a big step in his con­fi­dence and that’s half the game. He’s learned the roads, that’s a big thing, and it’s taken six years.

MH: Yeah, even when he wasn’t on my team I was like, ‘Luke, get out of the wind,’ and, ‘Luke, come on…’ I knew he wasn’t go­ing to get to the end be­cause he was wast­ing a lot of en­ergy. He’s one of those guys who’s had it a lit­tle bit rough. Peo­ple say that he’s got a very big en­gine and peo­ple like to use that. He was just ex­pected to be good at it and it’s taken a bit of time to get in the flow of the rac­ing. This year he was there at im­por­tant mo­ments reg­u­larly. It’s all a con­fi­dence game.

"You go into Roubaix and it feels like a moun­tain and you're not get­ting any­where in this race. Then you get a glim­mer one year and that keeps you go­ing"

Now 39, Hay­man says ex­pe­ri­ence and know­ing the roads is cru­cial in the clas­sics

Docker rid­ing for Skil-Shi­mano at Gen­tWevel­gem 09, his irst taste of the Clas­sics

Hay­man won Paris- Roubaix for the irst time in 2016, in his 15th start in the race

Docker cred­its Hay­man's win in Roubaix with giv­ing him more be­lief

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