FOUR-TIME Olympic champion Sir Chris Hoy has paid tribute to Ben Swift for securing a spot in Team Sky’s Tour de France squad – but insists the Rotherham cyclist mustn’t let the experience pass him by.
Swift’s meteoric rise to the top of cycling was rewarded last week when he was unveiled as the youngest member of Team Sky’s Tour squad, aged 23.
The nine-strong team will see Swift line up with two hugely experienced fellow Brits in the shape of Olympic gold medallists Bradley Wiggins and Geraint Thomas.
With Wiggins’ Tour pedigree – the 31-year-old was fourth in 2009 – Swift’s role will be more the willing support rider rather than potential podium dweller.
But regardless of his minimal winning credentials Sir Chris believes Swift’s journey towards being a champion in his own right can begin on Saturday, as long as he takes it all in.
“For Ben to be going on the Tour is an amazing rise for him because I remember Ben when he was very small and he was a tiny little lad and very skinny,” said Sir Chris – who was speaking at the London launch of Lloyds TSB National School Sport Week, an event which will involved four million children across Britain. He still is but even then when he was a young lad peddling away at the track in Manchester on some rollers you could see how smooth he was and how naturally talented he was on the bike.
“It’s amazing to see him come through the ranks and to be riding the Tour de France now is the stuff of dreams. I think there’ll be no expectation in terms of results because he’ll be there as a team player and also to find his feet and to see how he handles the relentlessness of the Tour, the day after day nature of it and the fatigue that kicks in after the first week.”
And while for now Swift will mainly play a watching brief Sir Chris believes it won’t be long before he is challenging with big boys like Geraint Thomas and Co. I am sure there is no expectation on Ben in terms of results,” added Sir Chris triple gold medal winner at the 2008 Olympic Games.
“But I think it’s about gaining experience and then looking to the future to become a rider like Geraint who can win the big one-day races.”
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