Interview: Swift by Name, Swift by Nature


The aptly named Ben Swift certainly had some top end speed at Revolution 44 on Saturday night when he was scorching the boards on his comeback

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It was back in 2012 that Ben Swift last rode the track and it was such a memorable week at the World Championships with a rainbow jersey and two silver medals, that it’s taken him until 2014 to pin a number on and return to the track.


In fact, it was back in August that his team pulled the pin on his racing and Ben returned to hospital to have surgery on his shoulder in September. Since then, a lot of miles have passed under his wheels and Ben is really keen to get back racing. His first race was a flying lap at Manchester (Revolution 44) and the long time between laps of a track saw him make a little mistake in his gearing.

“That lap was horrible” he explained. “Coming off the road and sprinting on much bigger gears, I under estimated it and went a little bit too small on the gear.”

It wasn’t that many years ago the likes of Ben Swift and Adam Blythe to name but two, were on the boards as juniors and younger, and seemingly enjoying smashing it on the boards against much older riders. Asked whether as a professional for a few years now, whether the track still has that buzz?


Flashback – Junior Track Champs and Ben Swift has more stripes to wear. Left is NFTO’s Adam Blythe and right, Olympic champ Steven Burke (Haribo/HMT)

“I still get the same enjoyment out of it” Ben says. “I have always loved the track and have grown up on it. Unfortunately, last year with my shoulder injury, I couldn’t ride the track but this year it’s nice to come back after incorporating it into my training through the winter. It will though be nice to do some racing on the track.”

Asked if the track work helps Ben, a winner of stages in races like the Tour of Britain, Tour of Poland (x2) , Tour de Picardie, Tour of California, Tour de Romandie and others, with his sprint on the road, the Sheffield rider replied “definitely. I think it was something I was lacking the year before. It’s a very useful tool and as it’s only an hour away for me, it would be silly not to use it.”

It will, says Ben, be five months between the surgery and his first race and explained that it is the longest period he’s had without racing. “When I line up for my first race, it will be six months since I last raced on the road and hopefully I’ll have a pain free shoulder. I have extra motivation this season to get stuck in.”

That extra motivation may well have something to do with a major event coming to Yorkshire and finishing in Sheffield no less. I remember well the days when Ben had the red kit on from Sheffield Phoenix and so it was a question that had to be asked; is he intending to challenge for a spot in the Tour team at Sky?

“I have had two bad years so if I am going to go, I’d have to earn a place. I won’t just get a start because it’s in Yorkshire and to make the Tour de France team in Team Sky is no easy feat. I do have a plan though!”


Ben Swift with Yorkshire junior Gabriel Cullaigh (RST/NFTO Racing Team)

“I want to come out strong in the early season and hit regular goals and if it works, it will be amazing. I never thought the Tour de France would be on home roads. It wouldn’t get any better than coming into Sheffield with the Tour but I just have to play it by ear.”

It isn’t just about Ben hitting targets though. As Alex Dowsett found at Sky, making that Tour team can almost be seemingly impossible for a rider in such a strong team and his switch to Movistar at least gives him a better chance. What about Team Sky, does Ben think they’ll give him the opportunity of proving he’s worthy of a place?

“I think everyone in the team has the opportunity to prove themselves for it. The team has won the Tour de France twice in the last two years and they will obviously be looking at how they can win it again.”

For Ben, making that Tour team is made harder by the type of rider he is, a sprinter. Mark Cavendish highlighted that when he left Sky for Quickstep. Asked about that, Ben replies “the dynamic of the team has definitely changed a lot. We’re a much more GC focused team now and a lot of the time I am left to myself in the sprints. That though has gone hand in hand with the fact I’ve not had the best two years so naturally you don’t get as much support anyway.”

“If I hit my targets, I’ll get more support and for me I’m not a pure out and out sprinter so I don’t need a dedicated lead out train, just some support every now and then.”
Asked how a rider can be at the sharp end in sprints where it’s become much more controlled by teams, Ben replies “just race craft. Riding the wheels, spot the trains and just get involved and being aggressive fighting for your place.”

“It is a harder way of doing it but sometimes you have no other option.”


Stage win in Tour of Romandy.

Whilst the Tour de France dominates the pro calendar, almost in an unhealthy manner being as it is the biggest annual sporting event of any in the World, there are plenty of other opportunities for riders like Ben in a cycling calendar where major events abound.

Asked what other goals he may have, Ben replied “I’ll be going back to the Tour of California where I won a stage last time. The race has the same stage where I won last time so that would be nice to hit that target and I’d also like to win in the Tour de Suisse. I’ve been close over the last couple of years so it would be nice to get that win there.”

Asked about his training in the winter, he explained that a lot of it has been done with the team in Majorca but that he kicked off his training in South Africa. “I spent nearly two weeks there and it’s a beautiful place and what I needed at that time of the year.”

Ben was there with Hot Chillee and whilst doing the double Century, met some one he says could be a future star. “I met a guy called Nicholas Dlamini and if he keeps progressing the way he is, he’ll be someone special on a bike.”

Asked if it’s a shock to come back to Britain and freezing temperatures, Ben replied “It was but I’m a Yorkshireman so I’m used to it! I love training on British roads in the winter as it gives you an edge later on I think.”

Ben is now in Majorca with Team Sky and will be starting in Challenge Majorca this week where last year he had three top tens. This year, he’s after the top spot! “Two are sprint stages, one’s a maybe and one’s a mountain stage but I was fifth in that one last year so we’ll see how it goes!”

Good luck to Ben in 2014.


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