The waiting is almost over for Rotherham’s Ben Swift.
Tomorrow his dream will come true and he will turn the pedals on his £12,000 custom-made bike as the world’s best cyclists set off on the Grand Depart of this year’s Tour de France from Passage du Gois to Mont des Alouettes.
The 191.5km first stage is just the start of a three-week odyssey for 23-year-old Swift, which will see the youngest member of Team Sky ride the length and breadth of France including the mountains of the Pyrenees and the Alps.
Swift grew up around Dinnington. There’s some rolling countryside as South Yorkshire edges into Nottinghamshire, but nothing to compare with the inclines he’ll see later in the Tour.
Far from shying away from the challenge, the sprint specialist is relishing the prospect of pitting his wits against the best mountain climbers.
He said: “Even though I’m not a mountain climber I’m looking forward to the mountains because that’s what is iconic in cycling. They’re all the big famous climbs that we’ll be going up.
“Half an hour would be a good climb. I’ve been known to be climbing for over an hour; it’s scary when you’re in the group behind and you’ve done your job for the day but you come round a corner and see 50kms to go.
“The roads aren’t shallow as well; they have sections that are 15 percent (gradient).”
Swift has had an excellent season. He has more race wins than any British rider during 2011 and is expected to challenge for stage victories during the opening week of the Tour.
However, he says he is conscious that it will be like no event he has ever been in before.
“I think the Tour is the biggest race in the world. You hear the stories and what people say and it is just faster, harder and the whole atmosphere around it is bigger. Every day you’re riding three or four miles per hour than you’d normally go.
“That takes it toll on you when you’re going up Alp d’Huez,” he said.