A spectator, as the Tour de France wound its way around his home county last year, local lad Ben Swift is determined to be front and centre for the inaugural Tour de Yorkshire this weekend.
Rotherham cyclist Swift was left out of Team Sky’s line-up for the race last July, which saw Yorkshire demonstrate its love of the sport. That appetite will once again be on show this weekend with three stages starting with a 174km route from Bridlington-Scarborough today. Swift says competing in the race will go some way to ease the pain of missing out on last year’s ride. And with Sir Bradley Wiggins making his first appearance in the colours of his own team following his departure from Team Sky and German powerhouse Marcel Kittel launching his comeback after illness, Swift knows victory would be a proud moment.
“To have races like this is fantastic” said the 27-year-old. “Last year, the atmosphere was unbelievable. This is a high class field, there are some big names coming; people are taking it seriously.” Swift is one of the favourites to claim the blue and yellow leader’s jersey come the conclusion of the final stage in Leeds alongside Lotto NL-Jumbo duo Moreno Hofland and Steven Kruijswijk as well as Greg Van Avermaet.
But it is not just the overall victory Swift has his eyes on - the sprinter’s jersey is also there for the taking. “I’m a bit more of a sprinter type, and having the Yorkshire Bank Sprint Jersey up for grabs is a goal. I’d like to be in that jersey by the time we arrive in Leeds,” said Swift. “There are a couple of sprints each day and I’m feeling pretty good.”
He added: “I’ll definitely be giving it my best shot, like I say it’s my home race, I’ve got a great team around me and I’ll be going for it.”
Having grown up in Dinnington, Swift is certainly no stranger to Yorkshire roads.
He is also a part of a proud Yorkshire tradition for producing successful sporting talent – the county memorably accounting for 12 medals at London 2012, including team pursuit gold for Barnsley cyclist Ed Clancy.
And Swift believes the British public will once again be out in force, come rain or shine, this weekend.
“I’ve done a few reckons and I’ve seen the atmosphere out on the roads already. There’s bunting everywhere, there are bikes painted – I think everybody is just really getting behind it again,” he added.
“That’s the great thing about British fans, they really grasp it and I think the Yorkshire folk are really proud to have this race here and they’re taking hold of it.
“You have only got to look round here to see how beautiful Yorkshire is, especially when the sun is shining.
“It’s hard roads, I’ve had a look at the circuits and it’s definitely going to be a hard three days, but we get to see some beautiful places.”
* Yorkshire Bank has agreed a three-year sponsorship of the coveted sprinter’s jersey at the Tour de Yorkshire. The event builds on the legacy of the Tour de France and follows the ground-breaking Yorkshire Bank Bike Libraries initiative. This partnership signifies the bank’s commitment to increasing the access to cycling across the county - visit www.ybonline.co.uk