PEZ Talk: UAE Team Emirates Ben Swift
Rider Interview: On the eve of the Canadian WorldTour races – Québec and Montréal – Ed Hood caught up with UAE Team Emirates rider; Ben Swift direct from Canada as he prepares for the weekend’s battles. The pair catch up and discuss his busy end of 2017 season.
Tour’17: Swift on the road to Serre Chavalier
It’s hard to believe that it was 2008 when we first spoke to UAE Team Emirates’ Ben Swift; he’d just won a stage for GB in the U23 show case Giro della Valle d’Aosta. The previous season he’d won a stage in the prestigious Giro della Regioni but 2008 was the year the pro talent scouts really took notice – as well as the Aosta stage win there were wins in the Coppa della Pace and Coppa Giuseppe Romit and fourth in the U23 Worlds.
Russia’s new Katusha World Tour team snapped him up and there was a Giro ride with some good placings and a Tour of Britain stage win that first full pro year of 2009. There was a bit of a squabble over his contract for 2010 with Team Sky desperate to have him aboard despite the fact he was on a two year deal with Katusha. Squadra Murdoch duly won and for 2010 Swift was in the black of Team Sky, winning a stage and the GC in the Tour de L’Oise for them.
2nd to Arnaud Démare in the 2016 Milano-Sanremo
The following season, 2011 was his best to date with two stage wins in the Tour Down Under and one stage each in Castilla y Leon, Romandie and California. Reminding us of his track talents he won the world scratch title in 2012 and two stages in the Tour of Poland. The following year saw placings but no wins; however 2014 saw his arms in the air in Coppi Bartali and the Basque Country – and also a fine third spot in Milan-Sanremo.
In 2015 there was another stage win in Coppi Bartali and whilst 2016 was win free – but with a raft of placings – there was however an excellent second place finish in Milan-Sanremo. For season 2017 Swift changed jerseys for the first time since 2010, joining UAE Team Emirates. There have been strong placings this year, including second place on a Dauphine stage but no wins, yet.
We caught up with the 29 year-old man from Rotherham, England on the eve of the Canadian World Tour races. . .
A long season started at the Tour Down Under
PEZ: It’s hard to believe it’s nine years since first we spoke, Ben?
Ben Swift: Tell me about it! It creeps up on you, I used to be the young guy but on some races this year I’ve been the oldest guys on the squad. But despite that you’re still learning, every day.
PEZ: Where’s home these days?
I live between the Isle of Man and Sheffield, I’m happy at home, I like life in the UK, I’m not into that ‘Monaco thing’.
On the road to l’Alpe d’Huez in the Dauphiné
PEZ: Is this your first time at the Canadian races?
Yes, and my first time in Canada – that’s one of the perks of this job, you get to travel the world !
We haven’t done a recce yet but the courses have a Worlds kind of feel to them with being on hilly circuits – the weather’s pretty bad here at the moment though.
Ben Swift fitting in at UAE Team Emirates
PEZ: A culture shock, Team Sky to UAE Team Emirates?
It was, yes – at Sky I was around guys I grew up with. On this team the culture is predominantly Italian but that’s OK because when I was with the GB U23 squad and then Katusha that was where I was based. If I was going to move it was always going to be to an Italian team, not French or Belgian.
PEZ: Does it take a wee while for a new team to gel?
It is a new team but actually it evolved from Lampre which is one of the oldest teams – the community was there already. It’s a bit strange for me, I was one of the established guys at Sky watching new guys come in and find their feet but here I’m the new guy – although we all share the same passion for what we do so that makes it easier. So it’s not like an office where you’re all doing different things and acceptance can be difficult. The language around the dinner table is mostly Italian, so that’s good for my language skills; I’m getting there slowly.
PEZ: A question born of my own curiosity – what’s Roberto Ferrari like – he always looks so damn cool.
To be honest, I’ve only been on one race with Roberto so I haven’t really spent much time with him since the training camps – but yeah, Italy is a cool country and all the Italian guys are cool, aren’t they?
Roberto Ferrari – Cool
PEZ: You started 2017 early in the Tour Down Under; it makes it a long season for you.
Yeah but the early start to the season is the norm – January to October. Over the time I’ve been pro Down Under has become more and more serious and run at a higher level – at Christmas and New Year you can’t really stop training, everyone is training all the time to win. Paris-Nice too, it’s no longer a warm up race; riders are actually targeting it so it’s a very hard race now.
3rd in Milano-Sanremo to his 2018 teammate Alexander Kristoff
PEZ: After third in ‘14 and second in Milan-Sanremo ’16 you were 17th this year – disappointing?
Definitely! It’s the worst finish I’ve ever had in the race but there wasn’t much I could do about it, I came out of Paris-Nice with a raging cold. It’s disappointing when you focus on a race and then things go wrong but you can’t legislate for illness and bad weather. I’m looking forward to the race next season, it’s one I know I can perform in, but with having Alexander Kristoff on the team now there may be a change of role for me in the finale?
Swift and Kennaugh on stage 7 of the 2017 Criterium du Dauphiné
PEZ: Second on that Dauphine stage to Pete Kennaugh – anything you could have differently to get the win?
I don’t know, probably not, I was cramping up and there’s not much you can do about that. Pete and I committed 100% to the break but at the end he was just that bit stronger.
Congratulations between Swift and Kennaugh
PEZ: How did you come out of the Tour?
I came out OK, the last week was good but after it I was mentally fatigued, I’d been racing constantly since the Tour Down Under and it’s inevitable that your motivation suffers. I had a bit of a break recently and I’m feeling refreshed – after the Tour I had a busy program; RideLondon, the BlinckBank Tour and Hamburg, tiring. But I asked not to ride Plouay and the break has done me good, just riding my bike not sticking to a structured program; as I said, I was fatigued – and that crash I had in the first week of the Tour took a bit of recovering from. I had to change bikes and shoes, one of my shoes was broken in the crash and that kind of thing upsets your equilibrium.
BinckBank Tour in Belgium
PEZ: No Tour of Britain – do you miss your home race?
Not really, it’s nice to race at home but I’ve ridden it eight or nine times so it’s nice to ride a different program.
On the front at the Tour de France
PEZ: The Worlds – more difficult to get the ride, now that you’re away from Sky?
No, it’s not down to Sky, British Cycling is totally separate now and I’ve been speaking to the selectors, the team will be finalized in the next week or so and it’s 90% that I’ll be there. I’ve heard mixed reports about the circuit but I’ve spoken to Edvald Boasson Hagen about the parcours and he reckons it’ll be harder than people think. It’s all down to how the riders race it but I also think that weather will be a big factor – it’s liable to be cold and wet which is a big factor.
PEZ: A busy end to the season then?
Yeah, after Canada I have the Worlds then there’s a race in Hong Kong and the new Tour of Guangxi in China to finish.
PEZ: And the team is showing it’s ambitions for 2018 with Dan Martin and Alex Kristoff coming aboard?
We want to take a step up, for sure; this was the first year but we’re looking to go further in 2018 – and it’s not just Dan and Alex, there are strong support riders like Rory Sutherland joining us too. I’m looking forward to it.
Tour’17 Düsseldorf stage 1
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 1,500 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.