The biggest surprise on Team Sky’s Tour roster was Ben Swift. The Yorkshireman may not have raced at the Dauphiné like his other eight teammates, but he has forced himself into the reckoning with five wins over the last six months.
Still, the man in question knew it was a possibility for months. Swift first found out in mid-March that it was “on the cards.”
“That’s what drove me to really try and get selected, which maybe led to some of those good results on the way,” he said.
Soon after, he was off to the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon to start a run of stage wins that continued at the Tours of Romandy and California.
“It just gives you a bit more drive than normal, that it could potentially happen. I didn’t try to focus on it too much, try not to jinx it almost,” he added.
A hard winter’s work
After a 2010 season affected by injury and bad luck, Swift attributes the flying last six months to a strong winter, spent putting in hard miles everywhere from freezing Yorkshire to Majorca and Australia.
“Touch wood, the injury problems are all behind me. I’ve done everything a little bit better: looked after my diet, looked after myself,” Swift said, speaking to Cycling Weekly at Team Sky’s press conference at London’s Kew Gardens this afternoon.
“I laid down stronger foundations, built a good routine and there’s also just a knock-on effect of confidence and morale building up. You go from one win to another, and it just builds on you.”
Swift in yellow?
If his winning momentum continues, Swift will be up there with the best on the opening stage’s finish on the fourth-category climb of Mont des Alouettes, which is well suited to his attributes.
Team Sky head Dave Brailsford sees him as a versatile rider who can be there on lumpy stages. “Ben’s real forte is this ability to climb and sprint. When the traditional sprinters all get dropped, he can still be there, along with Sagan, Goss, Bozic, Hushovd when he’s good.”
Providing Team Sky has a strong TTT the following day, Swift could potentially be the man putting on the yellow jersey.
“Maybe, I’ll certainly give it my best shot. That’d be pretty special. The first week is really interesting. I’ve had a little scan through it, I haven’t looked at the route too much,” he said.
Working for Wiggo
Swift emphasised that his role is primarily to support Wiggins. “I’ll be there to support Bradley and then have a try in the sprints – in that order, I think. Bradley’s got a realistic chance of a podium [finish], so it’s got to be 100% for him.”
Swift’s first Tour memories come from the late 1990s. “I remember coming home from school and watching it on Channel 4. As soon as I walked through the door, I’d be on the bed watching it. I remember watching Chris Boardman, Erik Zabel, McEwen, riders like that.”
Now it’s gone full circle. After the national championships this weekend, the hard-working 23-year-old will be the one on the inside looking out, inspiring generations of kids at home and fulfilling his own “lifelong dream”.
Ben Swift will be writing an exclusive column in Cycling Weekly magazine throughout the Tour