It's been a whirlwind year for Connor Swift.
Last summer, as Europe exited its first Covid-19 lockdowns, the 2018 British champion was surprisingly selected to ride the Tour de France.
He himself couldn't quite believe it. He was only 24 and was pretty much an unknown rider within the peloton, a Yorkshireman plucked from the British scene and plonked into a domestique role at Arkéa-Samsic, a second-tier French team. He had ridden just four WorldTour races.
Swift acquitted himself well, though, warranting his place as one of Nairo Quintana's helpers. This year, he's taken a step forward, winning one of the continent's most complex races, Tro-Bro Léon, and then he was selected for La Grande Boucle once more.
Another 21 stages done, and on stage 11 he was in with a shout of victory, forcing himself into the day's break and eventually finishing 11th.
His face belongs in the same picture as the world's best. "It's definitely felt nice to be here again," Swift tells Cycling Weekly.
"I gained more experience, had an opportunity in one of the stages in the break and everything I've learned is great for the future, great for progressing and hopefully sets me up for the next Tour de France."
It wasn't so long ago that a British cyclist riding the Tour would guarantee them the spot on the front page of this website's very own magazine. Times have changed, though: Britain's a cycling powerhouse, and just being on the startlist is no longer enough for Swift.
"I remember last year, there was one stage where I was fed up of the constant fighting in the peloton for every little inch," he recalls.
"But this year I've been more mentally switched on and I've not had a repeat of that.
"I'm a domestique rider, I'm not young but I'm not old, and having Tours under my belt, showing I can help [Nacer] Bouhanni with a sprint, positioning Quintana for a climb, helping the team in crosswind stages, I've shown I'm a valuable helper to any team and especially Arkéa-Samsic.
"It's the biggest event on the cycling calendar, it is the highest level there is, basically, and I've got through two editions. I've had luck: no illnesses, no crashes, and it's nice to have achieved that going into the future.
"But now I want to win a stage in the Tour de France. That's the dream."
Swift, who rode for Madison-Genesis in the UK, is a capable escapee, one borne straight out of South Yorkshire: a solid climber, a punchy rider adept at navigating undulating courses, and possessing a decent kick. It's these skills that he will utilise to enact his ambition.
"I reckon the way I can win a stage is probably through a breakaway stage," he says. "Similar to the day when I was 11th this year.
"A stage without mountains, but not fully-flat, one for the Classics riders. These are the days where I can get two hands in the air."
Familiarity breeds confidence, and knowing he stayed upright when half of the peloton didn't adds to his belief.
"I had a nice clean run, this Tour," he reflects. "I didn't crash, apart from a slow-motion tumble on Friday and even then I landed on the grass.
"I've learned to be more open-minded and mentally I can prepare better for these races now. Sure, it's the Tour de France, but every day there's 180 guys who potentially can win a stage.
"You just have to fight every day. There's no super-easy days here and you've just got to be prepared for that every day."
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