Ben Swift takes first step in battle for Giro d'Italia selection
The former British national road champion cut a relaxed figure at the Tour Down Under on Wednesday
Ben Swift cut a relaxed figure on stage one of the Tour Down Under, maybe because of his experience or maybe because he miscalculated his off-season break and extended it by a week.
The 35-year-old has opened his 2023 campaign with Ineos Grenadiers at the race, which Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-EasyPost) leads after stage one, for the first time since 2017.
In 2017 Swift was contesting bunch sprints but now he is now embracing a more multi-faceted role in his team as well as the ever-changing peloton.
At the first WorldTour race of the season, Ineos Grenadiers is not necessarily looking at Swift or 2018 Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas, who suffered from an infection in the lead-up, rather a trio of younger talent in Ethan Hayter, Magnus Sheffield, who is currently third overall, and Luke Plapp to deliver results in Australia.
“I always want to try and get the best for myself and best for the team and whatever that is it’ll be in the race but it’s also part of the process for me,” said Swift. “I’m building up to different goals in the season … so it’s doing the work and seeing what comes along.”
One of those goals is selection for the Giro d’Italia, which Thomas is also set to target this year.
“We’ve got big opportunities in the Grand Tours. I want to try and get back into that Giro team. We’ve got a strong group of guys that want a position. I enjoy that race, it’s something I want to be a part of and it’s a fight to get in that team,” said Swift.
The 2019 British national road champion first joined the team in 2010 and, save for a two-year stint at UAE Emirates from 2017-2018, has since called it home.
Now he sees his role as part to help younger riders, part to support the team and part to take his own opportunities as and when they come.
“The way racing is nowadays it’s not so much, there are obviously set roles, but they’re more open than they used to be, so if you get given the opportunity you take it, and then you support the team when you need to and keep progressing,” said Swift.
“I know it sounds a bit odd to say that at such an old age but we’re always learning and always progressing.”
Progression is integral in a peloton that Swift notes is advancing, with racing becoming harder and faster.
“But I prefer it,” he said. “It’s also getting more professional as well, which is about time.”
Swift competed at the Giro last season, supporting then teammate Richard Carapaz to second overall behind winner Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe).
He acknowledges that pushing for selection especially in a team synonymous with winning Grand Tours does to a certain extent gets harder but he's also confident in his abilities.
“I hope the team know what I’m capable of now, and I bring a certain calm element to the team as well and that role that I provide there,” Swift said.
“It is definitely, on a performance side of it, it is hard to get in these races but that’s a good thing; it shows the strength and depth of the team.”
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Sophie Smith is an Australian journalist, broadcaster and author of Pain & Privilege: Inside Le Tour. She follows the WorldTour circuit, working for British, Australian and US press, and has covered 10 Tours de France.
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