Team Sky's Mathew Hayman battled to a superb victory at Paris-Bourges on Thursday.
The 33-year-old Australian worked his way into a 14-man breakaway group in the early stages of the 190.4-kilometres one-day race which took place in wet and windy conditions in north-central France.
That escape group was never allowed to stretch its advantage much beyond two minutes and heading into the closing 50km the break began to split, with Hayman one of six riders to forge clear on the last climb along with Laszlo Bodrogi (Team Type 1 - Sanofi), John Degenkolb (HTC-Highroad), Geoffroy Lequatre (RadioShack), Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil) and Paul Voss (Endura Racing).
Their lead was down to 30 seconds coming into the last 10km but despite being caught by what remained of the peloton going under the flamme rouge it was Hayman who found the decisive kick in Bourges to land the spoils from Baden Cooke (Saxo Bank - Sungard).
It was his first victory since the Commonwealth Games Road Race in 2006 and on a memorable day for Team Sky Greg Henderson (third) and Chris Sutton (tenth) also both made the top ten.
As well as maintaining Team Sky's winning momentum, Hayman joins the impressive list of recent Paris-Bourges victors which includes Andre Greipel, Bernhard Eisel, Romain Feillu, Thomas Voeckler and Jens Voigt.
Early attack pays off
And afterwards we caught up with him to get the inside track on his triumph and his reaction to it. He told us: "Really early on there were a lot of attacks and I slipped into a move. A group of 14 of us got away but there were a few French teams who missed out on that and it didn’t really look like it was going to last.
"At one stage after 80k we only had eight seconds and then all of a sudden we went back out to two minutes. The last climb of the day was at about 150k and there were a few attacks up there which meant we ended up with just six riders.
"Coming into the last 20k we still only had about half a minute. The six of us worked pretty well together to try and stay away but we did actually get caught in the last kilometre."
But it was soon after that point when Hayman found added reserves as he explained: "I was leading into the last 400 metres and managed a good sprint. I’d seen that the guys behind were lining up so I just went and Baden Cooke got alongside me but couldn’t quite get over me and Greg was finishing very fast on the outside but the line came quicker.
"I was really happy with that - I think we got away after about 15km and I ended up kind of winning a sprint so there was a bit of disbelief afterwards!
"My last victory was the Commonwealth Games in 2006 so it’s been a while in between but it’s nice to win a race in a Team Sky jersey."
Holding his form
Hayman also revealed that he'd felt in good form heading into the race, adding: "I knew [last week] at Franco-Belge that I was going pretty well and Steven [de Jongh, the team's Sports Director] in the car told me to make sure I was confident in my sprint and I guess that's what I did."
Hayman won't be resting on his laurels though, with Sunday's race at Paris-Tours an end-of-season target for him.
He said: "I’m really looking forward to Paris-Tours, it’s really the last classic for the the kind of guys like me who enjoy those sort of events. It’s been a bit of a goal of mine at the end of the year after the World Championships.
"This win today puts the icing on the cake and means I’ll go in there pretty relaxed but knowing I’ve got good form."