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Ben Swift : Q&A

Ben swift revolution
Josh Cunningham
23 Apr 2015

We sat down with Ben Swift at the Revolution series to discuss his 2014 season, and how he integrates the road and the track.

Cyclist: The last time we spoke to you in early 2013, you were heading into the season with a niggling shoulder injury. How did it go?

Ben Swift: I had a really good winter and everything looked pretty good, then I had a nasty crash in the Mallorca challenge [in January] and that just unravelled everything. I woke up with the doctors looking over me; I had mud and gravel in my mouth, I didn’t know where I was and everything hurt. I had two months out with a knee injury, but then my shoulder just got progressively worse. It got to the point where I couldn’t even hold the handlebars so I decided to stop my 2013 season in August. Ending my season early gave me much longer to recover for this year.

Cyc: What were your aims for 2014?

BS: The biggest thing was to try to reinstate my place in the team – to get the confidence back and regain the belief from everybody. It was important for me to come out strong and perform consistently. I only won two races, or three if you count the team time-trial [at Coppi e Bartali], but I got seven second places across the year. I was always chipping away, and getting the result at the World Championships [12th] just proved that I’ve got a lot back.

Cyc: And you were third at Milan-San Remo. Does this prove you’re more than just the sprinter that some say you are?

BS: I’ve never classed myself as a sprinter really, but I do get labelled as one. I enjoy big bunch sprints and I’ll
get results every now and again, like at the Giro this year [2014] where I was second, and if it wasn’t for the pretty superhuman Marcel Kittel I’d have won. But I much prefer it after three or four hard climbs, when it’s a 40-man select group. They’re the type of races I want to target in the future.

Cyc: Speaking of which, what are your targets for 2015?

BS: I’ve got big ambitions around the first quarter of the season for sure, with Milan-San Remo. At the moment I don’t want to ride the cobbled Classics as it would take me away from races I can perform in, like the Volta a Catalunya and País Vasco. The Tour is always special but I’ve done it once already, so it’s not that I need to tick it off the list.

Ben Swift track

Cyc: You’re here at the Revolution series in London. How do you combine road and track?

BS: To be honest, I’ve not done anything special for this meet. I’ve just started my break so I’m only here for a bit of fun. The last time I rode the track was the last Revolution in February so I’ve spent a long time away from it. I grew up on the track though, so I can always drop back into it relatively easily, and it’s a really helpful training tool. I feel like I sprint better when I’ve been riding the track, so I’ll always try and incorporate it.

Cyc: Do you think Team Sky has had a disappointing year?

BS: It’s definitely not been a good one, but if you look at the success we’ve had in the last couple of years it was always going to be hard to maintain that. I think sometimes the best thing you can do is take a kicking. It’s what happened to us on the track when we lost [the team pursuit] to Australia at the World Championships. But then you get a boost and everybody wants to come back stronger. I wouldn’t say we got complacent; it just didn’t work this year.

Cyc: It seems every pro team is looking for marginal gains now. Does that make it harder for Team Sky to find an edge?

BS: Definitely. We’ve been quite pioneering, and people are always going to copy what the best teams do. Now we’ve got to look at how we can improve again, and luckily we’ve got great support and backroom staff that have given us these marginal gains in the past. Now it’s their job to do it again!

Cyc: UCI President Brian Cookson recently said he feels Team Sky is failing British talent. What do you say to that?

BS: I just think the way that we’ve gone, dominating stage races like the Tour de France, makes it hard. When you’ve got such big ambitions it makes it difficult
to bring in young riders and give them the opportunity in races like that. We are very much a drill team; we never really race in the open environment that sometimes enables younger riders freedom and results.

Cyc: With you, Ian Stannard, Geraint Thomas, Luke Rowe, Bradley Wiggins and now Andy Fenn, Team Sky has a strong Classics contingent. Do you think it would be worth switching focus to them, rather than Grand Tours?

BS: It’s just the way our team works. It’s very calculated. In a stage race it’s easier to plan what you need to do to succeed, whereas in one-day racing you can do all the planning you want and it will still be a lottery. Our riders are gradually getting the experience you need to perform in one-day racing, and we’ve shown we’re slowly getting better. I know we had good results early on with [Juan Antonio] Flecha, but look at the experience he had before he came to the team. It takes a lot of
years to get to that level.

Cyc: Do you think Wiggins’s planned departure will be a loss to the team?

BS: Yes, if it does happen it will be a big loss. But it’s the right time. He’s got massive ambitions for the track and if he feels that this is the best way for him to pursue that, it’s the best way.

Cyc: There’s talk of Chris Froome not riding the Tour in 2015. Who would be the team leader if that were the case?

BS: I have no idea. With the way we ride, the next best GC riders have always been helpers, so it’s hard to say. If he wasn’t to ride it then you may see our Tour de France team look like it has been in the Giro at times – more of a racing team, with not so much of a GC target.

Cyc: How many kilometres have you racked up this year[2014]?

BS: That’s pretty funny actually – I just calculated them on the train. At the moment I’m on something like 29,560. I finished 77 races and started 81, which is a lot considering I only did 28 last year.

Cyc: Why do you think there are more crashes in the peloton these days?

BS: Maybe because there are more people that can be competitive, so there are more people fighting for position. It’s pretty inevitable. I’ve certainly crashed more this year than I have in the past.