British time trial champion Ethan Hayter took his first win of the season on the first stage of Itzulia Basque Country, beating the pack in the town of Labastida.
The Ineos Grenadiers rider was set up by his teammate Omar Fraile, who was the first to initiate the sprint finish on the uphill and held off Mauro Schmid (Soudal Quick-Step) and Jon Aberasturi (Trek-Segafredo) at the finish line.
Hayter’s victory comes just two months after he broke his collarbone in a crash at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race that disrupted his season early schedule and forced him to miss the European Athletics Championships.
“It’s going to take some time to come back,” Hayter told the media after the win in Spain. “[Volta a] Catalunya was really difficult, I was going well, but actually those guys [Primož Roglič and Remco Evenepoel] were flying. It was great to be here and give back to my team what they did for me.”
Reflecting on the final kilometers of Monday’s 165.4km stage from Vitoria-Gasteiz to Labastida, Hayter revealed that things were hardly going as planned. “I actually had a bad time,” he said. “I thought maybe I wasn’t drinking enough or something, I was really struggling.
“Fortunately I got back to those guys and they were obviously in the perfect position and there was a crosswind. It wasn’t very strong but when you go at that speed it makes a difference.”
“Even if I didn’t perform well in Catalonia, my team was very supportive of me, but I think I stepped up and they all supported me today. I can only thank them.”
Asked if he was back to his best, Hayter said: “I still think I’m getting better. I was very sick last week, well, not a sickness, I had a cold and I wanted Catalan Everyone in Ronia is super tired. I’m recovering well and hope to get better every game.”
The Briton will wear the yellow jersey as the leader of Tuesday’s second stage, which runs northeast from Vienna to Leca. Also taking part in the six-day hilly event were David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ), Enric Mas (Movistar), Tour de France winner Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) and last year’s Itzulia winner Dani Martínez (Ineos Grenadiers), who all No time wasted on the first stage.