Ethan Hayter admitted he thought he was sprinting for bronze as he and Matt Walls came through at the finish to claim Olympic men’s Madison silver for Great Britain.
A day after Laura Kenny and Katie Archibald won the first ever women’s Madison at an Olympics, Walls and Hayter used a strong finish to add to the medal haul as this messy, chaotic but hugely popular event returned to the men’s programme for the first time since 2008.
While world champions Lasse Norman Hansen and Michael Morkov took gold for Denmark, Walls and Hayter finished three points back, level with the French duo of Benjamin Thomas and Donavan Grondin, but took silver by winning the final sprint at the end of the 200-lap race.
Ethan Hayter and Matt Walls. 22 and 23 years old.Olympic Madison silver medallists. 🥈🥈
— British Cycling (@BritishCycling) August 7, 2021
“I thought (we’d got bronze),” Hayter said. “Silver and bronze are both great, aren’t they? And we were actually closer to winning than I thought.
“We could have made up some points somewhere but then I think the Danes would have ridden differently. They were the stronger pair I think.”
Walls and Hayter had been in the top three of the standings from the first of the 20 sprints but saw that place come under pressure as the Belgian duo of Kenny De Ketele and Robbe Ghys launched a late move.
Attack would prove the best form of defence for Hayter, however, as his bid to save third place ended with second.
“I was looking up at the board, I was coming in with two laps to go to do the last sprint,” he said. “I saw a four-point gap to the Belgians and thought we have to beat them. But it’s so hard to keep track of what’s happening.”
It is the anarchy on track which makes the Madison so compelling. But where Kenny and Archibald had used meticulous planning – seeking to defy the common wisdom this race cannot be controlled – to take gold 24 hours earlier, Walls and Hayter were not afforded that luxury.
These two emerging talents – Hayter is 22 and Walls 23 – have been regular Madison partners in the past, racing at under-23 level, but injury and illness hampered the Manchester housemates’ ability to train together over the past year.
A horror crash on the road at Gent-Wevelgem last October ruled Ineos Grenadiers rider Hayter out of the European Track Championships, and soon after he had recovered, Bora-Hansgrohe rider Walls was diagnosed with coronavirus in March.
Mad for it! 🥈
— INEOS Grenadiers (@INEOSGrenadiers) August 7, 2021
Hayter was part of the Madison sessions Kenny and Archibald organised at the velodrome to hone their own tactics but would be denied the same opportunities with Walls.
It perhaps showed in the finer details on Saturday, but neither man was complaining.
“There were definitely some points in there we could have improved on but to say we haven’t raced together in a Madison in a long time, obviously there were going to be some mistakes,” said Walls, who took omnium gold on Thursday.
“We rode well, we were feeling good and came away with a silver, so I’m pretty happy with it.”
Men’s Madison Podium at @Tokyo2020 👇
— UCI Track Cycling (@UCI_Track) August 7, 2021
While Walls adds to his medal tally in Tokyo, Hayter – part of the team pursuit squad who finished seventh on Tuesday – is rewarded for his years of preparation for these Games.
They can now take their medals back to the south Manchester house they share with Bahrain-Victorious rider Fred Wright – but the two team-mates will turn rivals again on the road within just a few days.
“We’re both going to Tour of Norway,” Hayter said. “We’ll be racing against each other this time.”