Five Minutes With... Hayden McCormick

Five Minutes With... Hayden McCormick

23 February, 2021

With a background in professional road racing in New Zealand, Belgium and the UK, Hayden already has the legs and opens up to us about learning the rest as he goes. 📸 Carlos Mazón

As second place finisher in the inaugural Badlands and also your first ultra-race, you bring a pretty good success rate to your second race! How are you feeling for Tuatara 1000?

I'm excited for this one. When I went to Badlands, I was s*** ting my pants - I had no clue what to expect. I have a little more of a feel for the thing now, like I'm confident that I can ride through the night.

Hayden tending to a broken seatpost clamp in Badlands 📸 Carlos Mazón

How do you train for racing ultras alongside an international road-racing career? Does your road racing complement or compromise your training for ultras?

I am primarily a road cyclist, and I just do these on the side when I can squeeze them in between races. Obviously, with Covid wiping a few out it's been a little easier to fit ultras in. I do these for myself, because I want to. They are completely separate from racing for me. An escape, if you like, from the stresses and responsibilities of being in a team or at a race. It’s freedom.

📸 Víctor Pérez Pelayo

Ultra-racing definitely appeals as a post-retirement racing option (e.g. Christian Meier and Laurens ten Dam) - has your move into ultras been a conscious one to provide a post-retirement occupation?

I would like to do at least one a year from now on, not so much when I retire or something like that. Everyone needs to get uncomfortable for a while and go through deep lows and massive highs - it’s the best self help anyone can give you. We are all too used to comfort, and it's boring.

Which other ultras are you tempted to enter? Will you need to fit your ultra-racing around your professional road commitments? How supportive have your team been to you racing Tuatara 1000?

Haven't told the team yet, I figure it's better to ask for forgiveness than the risk of getting a no... (Please don’t fire me). I don’t really have any planned, as it will be a case of what fits in my schedule and where I am in the world, but I like the idea of GBDuro.

📸 Peter Sanchez

Lachlan Morton has seemingly balanced the demands of road racing and ultra-racing very well so far. You’ve come second to him at both a stage of the Tour of Utah and Badlands and you know him both professionally and personally, how would you describe the differences between you and Lachlan? What’s his secret?!

Yeah b***** d keeps beating me! Lach has no secret, he just rides his bike a lot more than any pro I know, and he also enjoys it more than anyone I know. Period. He just loves riding his bike and he's bloody good at it! It's hard to describe the difference - I would say he's a lot more clever than I am, and I think he's really comfortable with where he's at in the sport now. I guess I'm still the hungry apprentice who wants to jump up and do more. I look up to Lachlan a lot. We both suck at bike maintenance, I can tell you that much!

How much of the Tuatara 1000 route do you know already? Are you a local boy, or is this as new as anywhere?

I know a little of the general area from racing the Tour of Southland years ago. I'm not one to really study a map, ironically I'm pretty lazy. I just chuck the GPS on, put some music on and vibe it until stuff starts going wrong. And it will.


What do you expect to be the biggest challenges of this race? And, how do you expect this race to compare to Badlands and the rest of the gravel scene you know from your time living in Girona?

The biggest challenge for sure will be the conditions. The south can be 38 degrees one day and then bloody freezing the next. Or, it can also piss down for days. Getting food will be easy compared to Badlands, as the route seems to go through a lot of towns.

📸 Juanan Barros

Such levels of solitude and introspection are things we seldom find elsewhere in life and our readership will certainly attest that these moments are rarely pretty but highly addictive. What has ultra-racing so far allowed you to explore about yourself?

I used to just hate being alone, and also if I had a problem or something that was a bit of admin to do I would try to pass it on. After Badlands, I was just okay by myself, and I don’t really get lonely now. I'm a lot calmer and more level headed.

I'm addicted now. I used to think ultra athletes were guys who just couldn’t ride fast so they do something stupid knowone else wants to do... I'm sorry for that. I get it now.

The ultra community is also the best - supportive, chill, and genuinely there for the love of cycling.