Ben Swift rode to his first British national road race title, launching from John Archibald’s (Ribble Pro Cycling) wheel in the closing kilometres and passing team-mate Ian Stannard to claim the victory.
Only four months ago Swift was in hospital. He had crashed in Tenerife while out on a training ride with Tour de France champion and team-mate Geraint Thomas.
Swift was getting a gel out of his pocket and hit a rock, going straight down without warning. He suffered a ruptured spleen that was more serious than he or his team had initially anticipated, with the 31-year-old nearly having to have his spleen removed altogether.
However, Swift will now race with the bands of the British road champion for the next year.
“To be honest the last few kilometres were the easiest few kilometres,” Swift said. “Once we got away, whittling groups down, Stannard played his role and I could really just wait.
“In the past I’ve been a bit too eager, done a bit too much, but today I was like don’t do anything, just wait, and that’s what I did. It worked out really well.”
An Ineos one-two on the podium is a great result for the British WorldTour outfit, who looked to dominate their home championships by getting in moves throughout the day.
“Being the British WorldTour Team here I think we needed to take a bit of control,” Swift said. “We were looking at a section where there were going to be crosswinds but that didn’t happen so we just got in group.
“With Stannard up the road I could make sure I was covering those little moves. Sometimes you just get it right, sometimes you miss the right moves, and today everything just went perfectly.
“You have to spend a little bit of energy to save energy. And having Stannard on our team is a massive advantage.
“Nationals is always a good race, it’s alway pure, out-and-out racing from start to finish. What was quite good today was that the terrain wasn’t that hard so there was never that big a gap.”
Swift’s victory would have been a lot harder fought had it not been for his team-mate, Ian Stannard, who was British road race champion back in 2012.
Stannard was at the front of the race throughout, perfectly placed to set things up for Swift when he joined the leading group.
When Stannard was out on the front, stretching the legs of Alex Dowsett (Katusha-Alpecin) and John Archibald (Ribble Pro Cycling), did he think he had his second title in the bag with a couple of kilometres remaining?
“You never know,” the 32-year-old said, “but I always knew what Swifty was going to do. I went quite early and the lack of information from motorbikes and marshals meant I ended up flogging myself for no reason, but it’s always difficult in a smaller race like this.
“I just wanted to make sure I softened up the others for Swifty, it was quite a big group for a while and i thought a lot of them were going to end up coming to the line but it caught up with them so it was good.
After a silver medal in the time trial, John Archibald added a bronze his collection with third place in the road race, an impressive feat for a rider racing at Continental level.
“I just couldn’t really follow those guys, there was a couple of moves I could follow but I then couldn’t get away myself,” the Scot said.
“The gap wasn’t exploding but I was out of the race, I just couldn’t close it. Once I started tiring I just went to one pace and Swift saw his chance but I didn’t really have a choice, I knew [his attack] was coming, and that’s how I had to play it.
“The time trial was my target, so I was pleased with how that went. There are so many riders here you have to be a bit of luck which I got today in the end so I’m pleased.”
A successful track cyclist, winning gold in the team pursuit in the track World Cup in London last year, Archibald has said the UCI’s recent decision to ban trade teams from World Cups and to move the calendar to the summer “seems strange”.
“I can’t see the logic, I can’t see the support,” Archibald said. “All I can see is the backlash. They’ve almost presented it in the wrong way, and what they’ve given us is really not up to it, so it’s disappointing.”