What's Cool In Road Cycling

Madison Genesis’ Connor Swift Get’s PEZ’d!

Rider Interview: Next up in the ‘Young Guns’ interviews by Ed Hood is a rider who has already shown his worth by winning the British National road championship. Connor Swift, the cousin of Ben Swift (UAE Team Emirates), soloed to the red white and blue striped jersey in fine fashion. Ed Hood caught up with him after his big win to hear his story.

‘Swift clear, alone’, we manage to catch a snippet from race radio and expect to see twice Primavera podium finisher Ben in his UAE strip zoom into view in these closing stages of the British Road Race Championship on the tough roads of Northumberland in North East England. But no, it’s his young cousin, Connor (Madison Genesis) who banks into the corner like a Moto GP rider, well on his way to that lovely white jersey with the blue and red stripes of British Champion. We let the post-race dust settle then ‘had a word’ with the aptly named, ‘Mr. Swift’.

Cousin Ben Swift leads the break in the GB National champs

PEZ: The basics first please, Connor – how old are you and where are you from, how did you get into cycling?
Connor Swift:
I’m 22 years-old and I’m from Yorkshire (Doncaster). I originally got into cycling through triathlons. My secondary school put on a triathlon against other schools and the higher year group was included at the time. I ended up giving it a good go and a week later I found out I had won the whole thing. I really enjoyed the event and then asked my dad if I could do triathlons and duathlons. I quickly realised that I was stronger on the bike compared to swimming and running so decided to make cycling the full focus when I was first year junior. Luckily from going on the local chain gangs I had immediate support from BikeBoxAlan who had created a junior team at the time and got the ball rolling for me after seeing me keep up and go well.

PEZ: Are you a full time bike rider with Madison Genesis?
Yep, I am pretty fortunate to be able to ride my bike full-time with Madison Genesis. It’s not something I take for granted because I know Madison Genesis treats their riders very well compared to other domestic Continental teams in the UK where some riders still have to work part time.

PEZ: The National Championship: was Madison Genesis drilling it from the start the plan to pre-empt Sky or did it just work out that way?
I don’t think Madison Genesis drilled it from the start of the race; our main goal was to have numbers in the move. Therefore we were just covering attacks that were going off the front. By doing this we ended up with three riders in a group of 20 guys I think which was a pretty good scenario for us at the nationals.

PEZ: That late escape, pre-planned or on instinct?
You can plan to have a late attack in a race but lots of things can change prior to the end of the race and you know if you can make it stick or not depending on how it has unfolded. I like a race of attrition and that’s exactly what the Nationals was. I had looked after myself very well all day and on the last lap I tried to force a few smaller groups away but I could see everyone was pretty cooked. From that point 12K out, I knew if I went I could do some damage and stay away so I would go ‘instinct’.

PEZ: How much has the win changed your life?
Massively. Just the amount of people that respect and congratulate you after the race is unreal. Going overseas and racing recently I have had foreign guys say well done and they tell me how they watched the race. I also think it has put me as a rider on the radar for bigger teams too which opens doors in my career.

PEZ: You had a pretty strong ride in the TT too, were you happy with it?
Mmmm. No not really. Obviously some people would be very happy with a top 10 at the National TT Championship but on the day my legs weren’t there at all and I knew from the first few kilometres it wasn’t going to be a great ride; which is annoying as I love time trialling. I feel like I still haven’t had a breakthrough in that yet. The power is there for sure but I just need to see some expert people and get real aero.

PEZ: Do you have a coach – what’s the ethos?
Yeah Kevin Dawson [former multiple British time trial champion and prolific winner, ed.] has been my coach for the past three years now. I love working with him because he is really relaxed and doesn’t mind me switching a few sessions here and there because he trusts me and I trust him. Another great factor is he has ridden at the top level in the UK very successfully so clearly knows how to train and race. The man’s still strong as an ox too, so being able to train at a high level with your coach is nice.

PEZ: Tell us a little about your training.
During the winter it’s all about base miles and low cadence strength work. Then moving into the season that’s when I start to do a lot of sweetspot efforts and higher intensity stuff. I am very lucky to where I live because during the summer we have four very good chain gangs weekly. These are great to stimulate going through and off in a race and also a mega training session.

PEZ: How much has having Ben Swift as a relation influenced you?
It’s good to train with Ben when he is around and also getting tips and advice off of him is great. I have been on a few training camps with him now too and it’s good to see what he does daily by eating, efforts on the bike and recovery etc.

PEZ: You’ve been riding well abroad since the Champs; second on GC in the Kreiz Breizh stage race in Brittany, that’s a tough race. . .
Yeah the form is pretty good at the minute I would say. Kreiz Breizh was a tough race for sure and I tried to take the win on the last stage but it wasn’t to be as the leaders team was very strong all race. My Madison Genesis team rode brilliantly for me and I thank them for that.

PEZ: And fifth in the Poly Normande, that’s a Coupe de France counter, so guaranteed hard racing – how much of a ‘lift’ has wearing the jersey contributed to these strong rides?
Yeah I think it does spur me on a fair bit in all the races I do now. Being the national champion people expect you to be strong and maybe are slightly intimidated by you. I think it’s just a case of doing the jersey proud and getting stuck in to the races like I always have and not let it change the way I race but strengthen it.

PEZ: Is there still a ‘gulf’ between UK and Euro racing?
I would say the racing is pretty different, yeah. In Europe there are more Continental teams and more quality in the field that you are racing in. Therefore the races are less predictable and harder to control but equally can be controlled well by a few foreign teams working together.

PEZ: What’s the rest of 2018 about?
I have been given the opportunity to stagiaire for Dimension Data which I am super excited about. So whilst racing for them I suppose it’s about soaking it all up and hopefully impress the team the best that I can. [PEZ believes that Swift may ride the Arctic Tour of Norway and Deutschland Tour for the African World Tour team, ed.] I will still be racing the Tour of Britain for Madison Genesis though; and coming away with a few results from there would be good.

PEZ: Is going to a pro continental squad or World Tour team for 2019 a possibility?
The aim to move up onto a bigger team is definitely there so we will have to wait and see. . .

# A ‘coming man’ for sure, PEZ will be keeping an eye for his results over the next few weeks. #

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 1,600 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.

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