Rotherham’s Ben Swift nearly turned a dream into reality on Sunday after finishing third in the prestigious Milan-San Remo race - one of the best results of his career.
Team Sky’s Swift is hoping to make the squad for this summer’s Tour de France, which has its Grand Depart in Yorkshire and second stage finish in Sheffield.
And he’ll be boosted by a podium finish in one of the sport’s toughest Classic races.
The 294km race was won by Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) who beat Fabian Cancellara (Trek) into second with Swift third in a bunch sprint.
Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) was fifth.
Swift told TeamSky.com: “It’s the race that I’ve looked at in the past and dreamed about over the years. It’s the one big race where I could see myself getting a result because normally that sort of terrain is where I’d have pretty good legs. So to go there and do that today was a really great feeling.”
The 26-year-old Swift admitted the conditions were tough on the peloton. He said: “My hands were so cold. I was struggling to do anything with my fingers. I couldn’t do up my rain cape and things like that.
“I never felt bad in the race I was just cold. As it went on I just felt better and better. Then once we took the rain capes off and the racing really started I felt a lot better. When we got onto the climbs the rain did affect a lot of people. We were expecting a lot of attacks but they just never really materialized.
“The team rode together all day. The plan was to keep out of sight a little bit but to be at the front for the final climbs. I came around and got into a really good position at the bottom of the Cipressa and that helped a lot.
“Heading into the finish I was just looking to stay safe down the Poggio and stay in contact with the front guys. I knew that you needed good position down there to make it as easy as possible. I didn’t really know how many people were in the group or not but I just tried to stay as far forward as I could.
“It turned into a bit of a track race once we got into that final 3km. There were always guys willing to put moves in and then once it came to the sprint it was just about trying to pick the right wheel. I got boxed in a little bit but luckily I managed to find a way out.”