Cycling: Swift begins season in style

Ben Swift
Ben Swift
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ROTHERHAM’s Ben Swift says he’s in excellent shape to make a big impression on some of cycling’s most famous races this season, writes Richard Fidler.

Swift, who finished third in his first race of the year yesterday in Majorca, has targeted the ‘Classics’ as his major target this year.

And speaking to The Star from his training base on the Mediterranean island he said he is delighted with how his preparations have been going.

“I’m definitely feeling good. The big focus has been to get ready for the Classics so I’m in good shape early in the year and looking forward to getting racing.”

Swift, aged 25, and his Team Sky colleagues have made Majorca a second home during the winter months.

After yesterday’s 116 kilometre Trofeo Palma, which was won by Lotto-Belisol’s Kenny Dehaes from Garmin-Sharp rider Tyler Farrar in second, Swift will today take on the 167km Trofeo Campos with further races planned for tomorrow and Wednesday.

It’s all part of a plan to sharpen Sky’s riders up for when the season’s biggest races begin later this month.

Swift said: “These will be competitive rides but we’re using them as training.

“It has been great being out here in Majorca - it’s almost the place I call home at the moment!”

An up and down 2012 saw Swift perform well at either end of the year but he suffered an injury midway through the calendar year when he fell from his bike.

It was serious enough to prevent him taking part in the Giro d’Italia but close season surgery to the damaged shoulder has corrected any issues that may have lingered on.

Swift said it is in Italy that he is hoping for a significant triumph. He said: “The one I’d really like to win is Milan-San Remo.

“There’s also the Tour of Flanders - they’re both really tough races but I’ll be going to try and win them.”

Sky are the leading force on the World Tour with Bradley Wiggins as their leader.

Having worked closely with the reigning Tour de France winner in recent weeks Swift is in no doubt that he is improving as well.

“I was saying the other day how great it is to be part of the same team as Brad,” he said.

“I’ve known him for a long time and he’s still the same guy as he always was but it’s good to learn from him.

“It’s everything he does. The sacrifices he makes to win. He virtually lives out here. He’s super professional in everything that he does.”

While Swift’s profile isn’t as high as Wiggins yet he seems ready to make a breakthrough this year.

“I feel stronger than last year,” he said. “It’ll be an exciting season.”

Fellow Rotherham cyclist Dean Downing finished 32nd in the Trofeo Palma, while in the Tour of Qatar Downing’s younger brother Russell placed 85th on the opening stage. Sheffield Adam Blythe was 10th.

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