Ben Swift says the Yorkshire 2019 World Championships road race was the hardest he’s competed in during his career, with torrential rain and cold battering riders throughout the 261.8km race.
Great Britain’s designated leader, Swift eventually finished down in 31st place at over six minutes down on winner Mads Pedersen, who won from a three-man breakaway group ahead of Matteo Trentin (Italy) and Stefan Küng (Switzerland).
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Tao Geoghegan Hart was Britain’s best placed (and only other) finisher in 26th, in a race that saw only 46 of the 197 starters reach the finish line after nine laps of the 14km Harrogate circuit. Those who did finish, including Swift, looked visibly drained from their efforts during the brutal six-and-a-half hour race.
“It was a really tough day out there,” Swift said at the finish.
“I think it’s probably the hardest [Worlds] that I’ve done. Each one’s been a little bit different you know; Qatar was pan flat and the crosswinds in pretty warm weather. The thing that you had here is really short punchy climbs which in this weather made it really difficult.
“I got really cold there as well towards the end,” he added, “and when it’s already cold like that you know you need to start stripping off getting ready for the finish. But we gave it a good shot.”
The 31-year-old British champion said he chose not to follow the move of Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands) and Trentin with 33km to go, instead banking on the race coming back together ahead of the finish line.
Despite it quickly becoming clear that the leading group would stay away and the Belgian team were unable to pull it back together, Swift said he never considered climbing off before the end of the race in front of his home Yorkshire crowd.
“You don’t want to give up, you go until you can’t go no more and that’s pretty much what I did,” Swift said.
“[When Trentin went] I was just trying to wait to the finish really, I was just racing tactics.
He added: “[The atmosphere was] incredible. I think the atmosphere was building and building and I think it was amazing to see so many people in pretty bad weather, so thanks to them.”