THEY call them the ‘Rouleurs’; cyclists that can cope with the demands of any stage.
Not just there for the manic sprints at the end of a long flat ride, or only a mountain specialist that can ascend an Alp, a Pyrenee or a Dolomite as if they’re pedalling over a minor bump in the road.
The rouleurs can cope with the different gradients during a day’s racing and still be there contending for a victory in the closing kilometres.
It’s the kind of performer that Rotherham’s Ben Swift can see himself becoming as his career develops.
Swift is by no means a novice. Already he has taken part in all three Grand Tours - Italy, France and Spain - and is a track world champion.
But at the age of 24 he’s still developing his strength and goes into Sunday’s World Championship in the Netherlands as part of a strong nine-man British team full of confidence that he can end his season on a high.
Much like a rouleur Swift has rolled with the ups and downs of his year and is feeling stronger than ever.
“I’m a professional so you just have to deal with everything, but it has been a bit of a roller-coaster season,” he told The Star.
A three-medal haul, including a gold, at the World Track Championships in Melbourne, in March gave Swift hopes of making the British Olympic squad as part of the pursuit team.
However, he missed out on that and then a shoulder injury while preparing for the Giro d’Italia in May dented his chances of being selected for the road race in London.
Swift put this disappointment to one side to produce his best form of the season.
In June he had two second place finishes at the Tour of Luxembourg before a second and third in the Tour of Switzerland. July brought Swift the points winner’s jersey in the Tour of Poland after two stage wins, a second and a third. And then at the Vuelta a Espana earlier this month he came agonisingly close to his first Grand Tour stage victory with a second and a third.
Perhaps most impressively he challenged World Championship favourite Philippe Gilbert on an uphill sprint finish.
Swift said: “I think I can develop. I know I’m not the fastest sprinter out there. I’m at my best when it’s a bit lumpy and there’s a small select group that breaks away.
“The guy I really admire is Oscar Freire, who is a real all-rounder.”
Freire has been a multiple winner of cycling’s ‘Classic’ races. It’s something that could be on Swift’s agenda when he sits down with his Team Sky bosses this autumn.
“We’ll have a chat and I’m sure what my programme will be next season will be discussed. Competing in the Classics like Milan-San Remo is definitely something I’d like to do,” said Swift.
Last year Mark Cavendish won the world championship for Great Britain but it’s unlikely that he will repeat over a course that seems perfectly set up for Belgium’s Gilbert.
While Swift would be a surprise winner he is ambitious ahead of the 267 kilometre race. “We’ll see how the race goes but I’m good form. We’ve got a good nine man team full of strong riders. I’m looking forward to it,” he said.
Aston’s Jessie Walker, who celebrated her 18th birthday yesterday, takes part in the Junior Women’s race today.