Calm before the storm could yield National treasure

Plenty to smile about: Cyclist Ben Swift shares a joke with The Star's Richard Fidler.           Picture: Nik Brear
Plenty to smile about: Cyclist Ben Swift shares a joke with The Star's Richard Fidler. Picture: Nik Brear
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It has been a hectic few days for Ben Swift.

The cycling star from Dinnington has reached the pinnacle of his sport with selection to the Team Sky squad for the Tour de France, which starts next Saturday on the Passage du Gois.

Interviews have been done, phone calls have been taken and photo shoots completed. It should be time to relax before the steep climbs of the Alps and Pyrenees sap every bit of energy from the 23-year-old former St Bernard’s school student.

But tomorrow he has the 122-mile National Road Race Championship in Northumberland.

And he’s going there to win because the victor’s right to wear the champion’s jersey in all his races.

“I’d love that jersey – especially going into my first Tour de France,” he told The Star.

“We have a really strong team and we’re probably the only professional team in there, but there are some of the domestic guys are super strong so it won’t be easy. I’m in good condition and the course looks like it suits me.”

Swift won’t have it easy against the best of British. Reigning champion Geraint Thomas, sprint star Mark Cavendish and Team Sky colleagues Bradley Wiggins and Peter Kennaugh can all win it.

Rotherham’s Russell Downing, another who wears the Sky colours and a winner in 2005, has the guts and talent to figure, but pointed at Swift when asked who he thought was the best bet of the two.

Sheffield’s Adam Blythe is also taking part and has the talent to stay in contention.

Swift is in the form of his life. A national title would be a great achievement but he can’t help but look ahead to the Tour: “The stage I’m looking forward to most is the last one in Paris,” he said.

“Riding down the Champs-Élysées and racing against Cav (Mark Cavendish) will be brilliant.”