INEOS GB Champion – Ben Swift Gets PEZ’d!
Rider Interview: Ben Swift has had an up and down career so far, but the man is a winner. From World track championships to stage wins and podium places in Sanremo, he’s back home with Team Ineos and has a National champion’s jersey on his shoulders. Ed Hood caught up with Ben within days of his big win to hear all about it.
Ian Stannard and Ben Swift in Norway
It was 2008 when I first interviewed Ben Swift, he’d just won three important U23 races in Italy, including a stage in famous Valle d’Aosta stage race. Since then he’s been with Katusha, Sky, UAE Team Emirates and is now back with Sky’s latest incarnation, Ineos.
Milan Sanremo’14 podium
Along the way he’s won a World title in the scratch on the track, won stages in the Tours of Britain, Picardie, Castilla y Leon, Romandie, California, Down Under, Poland, Basque Country and Coppi e Bartali – not to mention two podium finishes in Milano-Sanremo and a top five finish in the World Elite Road Race Championship. But the last two seasons with UAE Team Emirates don’t number among his best and back with Ineos (formerly Sky) for 2019 he’s just pulled off his best ride in several years in winning the British Elite Road Race Title.
Ben Swift – 2019 GB champion
Away with Ineos team mate, twice winner of Het Nieuwsblad and a former British Road Champion, strongman Ian Stannard and pursuit and time trial specialist John Archibald (Ribble Pro Cycling) – Scot, Archibald was only six seconds off gold, behind Katusha-Alpecin’s former World hour record holder, Alex Dowsett in the British Time Trial Championship – Swift watched as Stannard rode away, marked Archibald and then in the closing phases launched a monster kick, leaving Archibald to the bronze then zooming past Stannard on his blind side in the streets of Norwich, where the race finished, to arrive at the line in solitary splendour and unleash a mighty roar of triumph and relief.
2019 GB podium
We caught up with him at his Isle of Man home on the Tuesday after his win; a performance made all the sweeter with his return to top form after a horror training crash in Tenerife back in February in which he suffered a ruptured spleen.
PEZ: Congratulations, Ben it must feel great to be back on top after that difficult start to the year with the crash.
Ben Swift: It’s the worst crash I’ve ever had, I was in hospital for a week and when I got home I couldn’t walk and was having breathing difficulties, so sure, it’s good to be back. But I had terrific support from the team after I got home – my coach, nutritionist and team doctor all came to see me, I couldn’t have wished for more.
Leading the 2018 GB Nationals
PEZ: I make it you’ve been second, fourth, fifth, seventh and eighth in the Nationals, in the past?
That sounds about right; there was a lot of emotion in that win after all those places and year that I’ve had, with the crash. It’s good to be feeling like myself; the last year with Sky, before I went to UAE, I had six second places in big races but then the last two seasons have been difficult so it’s good to be back winning.
Valencia stage 2
PEZ: Your results in your most recent races, the Tour of Norway and Swiss Tour have been promising, getting the better of guys like Matthews in the finals.
Yeah, before the crash Valencia went well for us, I had two top ten finishes and then went I came back in the Tour of Romandie it went a lot better than I thought it would which was good for my motivation. Norway was good but the climbs weren’t really long enough to build strength but in Suisse I had good climbing legs which is encouraging, towards my goal of being a strong mid-mountain domestique. But I’ve been working on my sprint too and before the crash I was getting some really encouraging numbers.
Stage 2 win in California’11
PEZ: The National win must be your best performance since your fifth in the Worlds in Norway 2017?
Definitely, last year was my worst ever, I broke my back in a crash at the Tour of Flanders but didn’t realise; after that there was just one thing after another and my morale went into a bit of a downward spiral. What kept me going was that I’d been talking to Geraint Thomas about going back to Sky and that gave me my buzz back.
Win in Coppi e Bartali
PEZ: And your last win was a stage in the Coppi e Bartali in 2015?
Yeah, it’s been a while!
PEZ: It was a real race of attrition on Sunday.
The National is always like that, it’s always a hard race, there are team tactics to an extent but everyone wants to win it. With the flat parcours this year there was a lot of groups going clear but getting pulled back. For me it was one of those days where everything went right, I was going with the right moves and then with Ian Stannard in the final it was perfect for me. John Archibald rode a really good race, he never missed a spell and kept chasing; you can’t give Stannard 20 or 30 seconds or you’ll never see him again. I don’t know John Archibald but I’m aware of his performances on the track; for him to be away with two World Tour riders in the last 10 kilometres was a massive achievement for him – and all those Ribble guys like to race hard.
In the Hammer Series
PEZ: Your late attack to leave John Archibald and get up to and over Ian Stannard was very impressive.
I saw my opportunity, Archibald was chasing Stannard but we weren’t getting any closer so I went over him on a technical section; I knew that I’d have to hit Stannard hard, go past him fast so his head would go down a little. I had to careful though because I went deep to attack at 1500 metres out but didn’t want to get past Stannard then blow up.
UAE wasn’t the best for Swift
PEZ: The title must help you put 2018 behind you?
There was nothing I could put my finger on, I hadn’t been going that great then I had the crash where I broke my back, you think you’re doing the right things in training and preparation but maybe you only think you are. The team is Italian in style, old school and not like Sky but when I left Sky I needed a change and have no regrets about the time there – it was good life experience.
Ben Swift – Stage 3 time trial Volta ao Algarve 2015
PEZ: Was coming back to Sky like going home?
Definitely, it was a really good feeling to be at the training camps, one of the family again, there were a few new faces but things hadn’t really changed that much. It’s the best fit for me, the professionalism of the Sky/Ineos organisation.
2nd to Simon Gerrans in the TDU’16
PEZ: What’s on the agenda now?
A little break, time with the family; I was speaking to my coach today and whilst we haven’t finally agreed a programme, I think I’ll be back at the Tour of Poland which starts on the 3rd August.
Sanremo’16 behind Arnaud Démare
PEZ: The Worlds are in Yorkshire, this year. . .
I’m definitely ‘up’ for that one, I missed the Tour de France in Yorkshire; it’s difficult to imagine how special the Worlds are going to be. It’s a long race, I like that – and I’ve proved in the past that I’m good in those, the Worlds and Milan-Sanremo – and the parcours suits me so, yeah!
"I feel like I've got my rhythm back, my motivation and enthusiasm for cycling…"
— British Cycling (@BritishCycling) June 30, 2019
# God willing, PEZ will be there in Yorkshire to give Ben a shout in those Worlds. #
Worlds12, Melbourne – Madison – Ben Swift and Geraint Thomas
It was November 2005 when Ed Hood first penned a piece for PEZ, on US legend Mike Neel. Since then he’s covered all of the Grand Tours and Monuments for PEZ and has an article count in excess of 1,700 in the archive. He was a Scottish champion cyclist himself – many years and kilograms ago – and still owns a Klein Attitude, Dura Ace carbon Giant and a Fixie. He and fellow Scot and PEZ contributor Martin Williamson run the Scottish site www.veloveritas.co.uk where more of his musings on our sport can be found.