The Ben Swift Blog:

Looking back at 2011 so far, Ben Swift recalls the highs and lows of 2011 so far …

Since riding a stage race in Sardinia with the GB Cycling Team team, I have had a few lows and also a few nice highs. The first big low came straight after Sardinia and what was to be my first big target of the year – the Track Cycling Worlds. After suffering in Manchester, I wanted to turn things around and show I could still make the team.

So I spent a week on the rollers after Sardinia to try and get a jump onto the track and get that zip back in my legs. It worked but not enough; I was still off the pace. I gave it my best shot but I just didn’t get it right this year and that was really disappointing because I had been looking forward to this event since the year before where we lost Gold by 0.152 of a second. But it just wasn’t to be this year, so I took a few days off, recharged my batteries and set my sights on the rest of the road season.

After my little break, I was back out on the road and I was fine up until the three-hour mark and then I was blowing so that was to be my focal point. I just went out on my bike and enjoyed being out there. I got a call with some good news, I could now ride Criterium International, which was great! Racing is much better then training, well most of the time it is.

Stage 1 of Critérium International was savage with over 4000 meters of climbing. I quickly reminded myself that I hadn’t seen a climb in about a month so it was going to be a fun day for the second team car but not me. Soon as the flag dropped, I was in the racing spirit and forgetting what lay ahead. I was following moves and doing the normal domestic duty until around 100k and I went bang. With still another 100k to go I was in for a long day. I found myself in a group of eight but had a little bit of company with Russ (Downing) there as well. Not that I was speaking to him much though because I didn’t know which one of him to speak too as I was seeing three of him!

After getting my ass to the bottom of the last climb, a 13k mountain is just what you need when you are nearly out of it. I think maybe I set the slowest time ever up there. I finished the stage 45 minutes behind and out of the time limit but I didn’t care at that point. But what was important was that I got round and while hard, it actually turned out to be better because instead of getting up at 5:00 a.m. for the next early morning stage of 75k. I had a nice lay in and went out for four-hour training ride, so it turned out to be a good weekend.

Once that leg battering weekend was over, I was on a plane to Belgium for one-day easy and then the start of the Three Days of De Panne. Now this was a race that was more suited to where I was at. Nice fast flat race. I got a nice surprise when I landed in Belgium as I found out I was going to be in the Tour of Flanders so I better take my note pad out these next few days of racing and get revising the roads. De Panne was a pretty uneventful week for me; just getting stuck in and getting some good K’s in the legs.

So far with Criterium International and De Panne it had turned into a really good week of training and I was finally starting to feel more like myself again. So after De Panne, I had two days easy before my first experience at a
cobbled classic. And what an experience it was. I think I rode with goose bumps the whole day and the noise and enthusiasm of the crowd meant you could barely feel your legs. I had a good day doing my job of following the moves for the first two hours, then trying to get the team into position.

After that, it was to try and get as far as I could. I found myself in the 3rd group, a nice large group and I finished my first Flanders in 111th with a massive smile on my face. I was back to my base in Tuscany after that for a few days easy and then a week of training with teammate and new flat mate Peter Kennaugh. With both of us in the same sort of shape, it was a good intense block of training. I even managed to bribe my girl friend to do some motor pacing for us, as it turned out she was a natural at it!

After freshening up, both Pete and myself headed to Castilla Y Leon. We had a great group of guys in the race and I was looking forward to trying my legs in a sprint again. But I had bad legs the first two stages so I said I would lead Russ out. I was feeling better as the week wore on and on the final stage I felt I had good legs and the guys would pull the sprint for me. It turned out to be a success, the team was fantastic all week and we deserved
a win that week, the guys gave me a perfect lead out and I managed to finish it off.

Now I have a short week before my next race Tour de Romandie which is from the 26th April – 1st May. I will be hoping to do my best for my team and myself!

Let me know what you think on twitter @swiftybswift

Cheers, Swifty