INTERVIEW: HAYMAN & DOCKER
A double interview with Orica’s Classics duo
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