Ben Swift switched teams from Team Sky to UAE Team Emirates this winter for a chance to lead in his favourite races, including tomorrow’s Milan-San Remo. However, he says that he and the team “are not under any illusions” for the victory.
Swift finished third in 2014 and second last year behind Frenchman Arnaud Démare (FDJ). The team, formally Italy’s Lampre team, hired him specifically for races like Milan-San Remo and the Tour de France.
“The emphasis is on San Remo, but I can name 20 or 30 guys who have it on their list too,” Swift told Cycling Weekly.
“We are not under any illusions. I don’t like making a big song and dance, saying, ‘That’s the one I want to target.’ You’ll never hear me say, ‘That’s the one I’m going to win.’ I’ll never say it. It’s so unrealistic. So many people have the same goal.”
Swift led Team Sky at the race in 2015, but only managed a 13th behind winner John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo). He now describes the race as a “logical target”, but also says that anything can happen on the day.
“You only have one shot, and you could puncture, have a bad day. It could down to one little mistake in the final and that’s it for another year,” Swift continued.
“That aside, you have to have goals and ambitions. For me, I’ve proved in the past that Milan-San Remo is a race that suits me. It’s just a logical race that I can target. Targeting it enables me to have a strong early season.”
Following Milan-San Remo, Swift will race the Tour of the Basque Country (April 3-8), and the Amstel Gold Race (April 16).
Working in his favour, Swift raced Paris-Nice last week. Five of the last six winners of Milan-San Remo have won the Italian Monument off the back of the French stage race instead of Tirreno-Adriatico.
Tirreno-Adriatico, however, could produce another winner this year as it did with Gerald Ciolek in 2013, with those who raced Paris-Nice having suffered though some bad weather.
“I had a really solid winter with great weather, I didn’t miss anything,” Swift said. “I was able to go to the Tour Down Under. My results weren’t as strong, but I was actually much better this year than last year. That’s due to a better winter and a little bit of intensity, working on my base with the thought that Milan-San Remo is a long race that needs a good solid base.”
The race covers 292 kilometres from Italy’s business capital to the San Remo casino town. Along the coast, Swift and his rivals must climb the three Capi climbs and the Cipressa and Poggio.
Given UAE Team Emirates is an Italian team at heart, it holds Milan-San Remo in high regard. General Manager Giuseppe Saronni won the race in 1983.
“The team helped me focus on it, on the surrounding races, giving me the opportunity,” Swift added. “They listen to what I wanted and then make decisions. I was able to do that in the past, but sometimes, it was spur of the moment, being pulled off to a race. Now we have a plan and we are sticking to it.”