What's Cool In Road Cycling

Catching Up With Katyusha’s Ben Swift

Katyusha’s Filippo Pozzato made a huge name for himself over the past week, but another Katyusha rider is just beginning to edge his way into the upper echelon of the sport. Young English neo-pro team mate, Ben Swift, may not be winning the E3, or podiuming at Paris-Roubaix, but he’s doing quite nicely, thank you.

This interview was done a few weeks back, just before Swift went on a tear at the Tour of the Basque Country – he took 4th in Stage 4, 2nd in Stage 5, and 4th in the Points classification. His ride at Pais Vasco did well to show just how good this young rider is going to be.

PEZ: Second at the Nokere Koerse (UCI 1.1)to Graeme Brown, could you have won?
Ben: I don’t know, but Browny threw me a good old hook – that’s for sure!

PEZ: Is Graeme a bit wild, then?
Ben: I had a team mate on my wheel in the sprint and Browny flicked him off my wheel, then he edged up beside me, when he got level he made a right turn!
I was stalled in a big gear – if the gear had been a bit lighter then I might have got the better of him.

PEZ: You started the season with 8th at Lugano.
Ben: I was 10th day before at the Giro dell’Insubria so the team gave me freedom for Lugano – it was a tough race, five laps with four climbs each lap.

PEZ: Then fifth on the first stage of the Criterium International; behind Jimmy Casper – he’s still quick.
Ben: Yeah, he won it well, I was on Mark Renshaw’s wheel but Casper was untouchable. I had the best young rider’s jersey for the next stage. That was 100 kilometres with nine climbs but I had a rear wheel punctured on the second last one, then my back brake was catching and I got tailed off.

PEZ: Does Katyusha sort you with a lead out train?
Ben: Not a train as such but in the Criterium International I had a few guys assigned to look after me; but there was an almighty crash with five kilometres to go and it took my guys out.

PEZ: Pozzato is going well for you guys – E3 and now a De Panne stage.
Ben: Definitely, I know that he really wanted results. He was caught in a crash at Het Nieuwsblad or he might have got that too. He’s a good guy, I roomed with him in Qatar – he helps me with my Italian and I help him with his English.

PEZ: You’ve settled in nicely, then.
Ben: Management are happy with me; the other DS’s have been texting me and ringing me to say;”well done,” which is cool.

PEZ: How’s your system coping with a pro’s workload?
Ben: My recovery is good despite the fact that I’ve raced 17 times already this season. Last year I didn’t start ’til 26th April. I put in probably the best winter I ever have, so I was confident that I’d be OK.

PEZ: The British Cycling Academy prepared you well, then?
Ben: Without the Academy, I wouldn’t be here; but it’s not just the racing aspect, there are the other skills you need to survive in the pro world – looking after yourself, travel, managing the stress. It’s great having Max Sciandri to turn to, he was a pro for 16 seasons; anything at all – just ask him.

PEZ: What’s the team language?
Ben: Italian or French, it depends upon the DS. It’s awkward for me when instructions come over the radio; but if I’m riding for a big rider, then I just ask them what they want me to do. There’s no problem if they give me my freedom, obviously. My Italian is coming along slow but sure, that’s three years I’ve been here but now I’m being forced to use it, it’s like a snowball effect.

PEZ: Who’s impressing?
Ben: Everyone! It’s a whole step up from amateur racing to Pro Tour; you go from watching the guys on TV to sitting beside them at dinner. I suppose I was a little in awe to start with – on the same team as Pozzato and McEwen! All the guys that were on the Academy programme are impressive too – Geraint Thomas and Cav, of course.

PEZ: What about Gert Steegmans?
Ben: He’s got a health problem just now, I haven’t seen much of him – we’ve only done one race together.

PEZ: Where’s your favourite place to race?
Ben: I just love to race, any race! I have the GP Indurain and Pais Vasco next. My programme has changed completely from what was agreed at the training camps – maybe because I’m going better than they expected. With the pros, every race is a big race and has an aura.

PEZ: And can Pippo win the Ronde?
Ben: I think so, he has the right characteristics and he has the form.

PEZ: Thanks Ben, I’ll give you a shout again when you get your first win.
Ben: That’ll be good!

With thanks and best wished to Ben; somehow I don’t think that call will be too far away.

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