All the talk before Milan-San Remo was whether Mark Cavendish could repeat his 2009 victory in the longest single-day race on the World Tour calendar.
But after almost 300 kilometres, and nearly seven hours in the saddle, it was Ben Swift who grabbed a place on the podium.
The Team Sky rider finished third behind Norwegian Alexander Kristoff and Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara. That made Swift only the fourth British rider to finish on the podium at the race known as La Primavera. The others were Brian Robinson (third in 1957), Tom Simpson (who won in 1964) and Cavendish. (Max Sciandri was third in 1993 but he was still officially an Italian at the time).
In fact, it’s a very select group of riders who have ever made the top three of one of cycling’s five single-day monuments: Simpson, Cavendish, Swift, Roger Hammond (3rd, 2004 Paris-Roubaix), Barry Hoban (1969 Liege-Bastogne-Liege, 1972 Paris-Roubaix) and Robert Millar (1988 Liege-Bastogne-Liege).
Anyway, Swift’s performance was the high-spot of a strong spring which saw him win a stage of the Settimana Coppi e Bartali and another at the Tour of the Basque Country. He finished second to Marcel Kittel when the Giro d’Italia arrived in Dublin, was runner-up to Peter Kennaugh in the National Road Race Championship and then took a very decent 12th place at the World Championships.
We will be counting down the 20 best British riders of 2014 throughout December, with the top 10 published in the December 18 issue of Cycling Weekly magazine