The result reads that at the end of stage 4 in the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah Hayden McCormick of Team BridgeLane finished 93rd; 4.22mins behind the day’s winner Marco Canola. But that tells nothing of the story of Hayden’s day out on the bike.
It’s the cycling equivalent of dreaming that you’re getting up to address your class at school and realising that your pants are down; and no one wishes it upon anyone. But it happened to Hayden McCormick, and to be fair to one of our own; he’s taken it in his stride very well. Stage 4 of the 15th edition of the Tour of Utah took in seven laps of a tough circuit in Salt Lake City. It was a day that was attritional for many, and attractive for those keen to chance their arm at a GC challenge.
Hayden McCormick started the day as the only Kiwi left in the Team BridgeLane outfit; with Joseph Cooper forced to abandon after stage 2. He’d held a top 20-30 position in the race throughout, starting stage 4 with a 9.40min deficit to overall leader Ben Hermans of the Israel Cycling Academy. It was a gap that would typically be big enough for him to be allowed into a breakaway, and so when McCormick went on the offensive he found daylight and he fully capitalised on his opportunity.
McCormick was not the first attacker, with a number of riders going up the road. By the time the 25 year old bridged over to the leaders he’d succeeded in making it across to a group that was 16 strong. But the Kiwi was on fine form and he wasn’t afraid to show his cards; going on the attack and getting a handy 10 second lead with 15.7km to go. That gap continued to grow and he crossed the line 20 seconds ahead of his nearest challengers. Spent. Elated. Exhausted. Punching the air. One lap early.
By the time he’d realised his mistake it was all too late and McCormick was unable to press on. Speaking to Cyclingnews afterwards the Kiwi said, “It’s pretty embarrassing, but you just have to laugh about it.”
“For 10 seconds I was the winner in my head, so I’m getting closer. I’ve always wondered how I’d done it. Now I know.”
On reflection it’s actually a rather common occurrence. Martin Gluth did it at the German National Championships in 2016. Eloy Teruel made the same mistake at the Tour of California and the Tour of Utah had that same experience handed to Griffin Easter last year in the opening stage of racing. Is it simply a case of being so far in the zone that all other distractions – even necessary ones – get drained out? A slice of forgetfulness? A touch of heat stroke?
According to McCormick the explanation as to what went wrong is far simpler – and more out of his hands – than that. “I didn’t have feeders on the second-to-last lap, so I assumed it was the last lap, and then also with the way the break was racing, [and] I also couldn’t hear anything on the radio.”
When you go back to the footage of McCormick’s incident it’s understandable how his ability to accurately hear what was going on might be impaired. Although the bell did sound for one lap to go, the throngs of people on the climb to the line, the hum of almost half a dozen motor vehicles along with the sound of the helicopter above; all of these could have easily made matters not quite clear for the Waikato rider.