The UAE Emirates rider on his sprinting inspiration and why he's working on his Italian
UAE Emirates rider Ben Swift gets a light toasting
What’s your favourite race?
It’s quite a difficult one, but I think the worlds: the whole atmosphere, the build up and the tension that goes with it. You’re also representing your country so it’s quite special. I used to take riding in the national jersey a little bit for granted when I was in the BC [British Cycling] Academy and wore it every day for three years.
What’s your favourite climb?
I used to have favourite climbs, but I’ve not liked them much this year. One back home that I train on is called the Surprise - I don’t know why. It was used in the Tour of Britain a couple of years ago and it all kicked off there. [It’s a 2.4km, 6.4 per cent climb out of Hathersage, south west of Sheffield].
Who’s the best domestique in the peloton?
Luke Rowe. When I raced with him you didn’t have to say anything, you just looked at each other and you’d always be in the right position, no matter what.
Who on the team is best at keeping morale high?
In this team, I’m not sure. I can’t understand them half the time – they might be motivating each other or they could be complaining! I’m working on my Italian.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a bike rider?
I wasn’t any good at school and didn’t have any ambition to be there, so probably something manual.
What is your best asset as a bike rider?
Determination and grit. I like coming back, looking to the next thing and not really staying down for long.
What result are you proudest of up until this point?
The stage win that I got in Pays Basque in 2014 is up there because I was pretty pleased with my climbing that day. Also the first time I was on the podium in MilanSan Remo. It’s a race that everybody says kind of suits me. Then to be on the podium was a bit of a surreal moment.
Do you have any pre-race rituals or superstitions?
The only thing I really look at is the colour of the glasses. This year I’ve found myself choosing different coloured glasses. No idea why.
Who was your cycling hero?
I really admired Robbie McEwen and Óscar Freire. I was really fortunate to be in Robbie’s team as a first year pro. When I was younger I was really small and wasn’t seen as a sprinter, more of a track specialist. It was only the second year at U23 where I started making changes. I liked Robbie’s style and he was also seen as a small rider. I identified with that.
Who’ll win the Tour in five years’ time?
Maybe Gianni Moscon given the way he climbed in the Vuelta. If there’s any team that can develop him into a contender, it’s Sky.
What thing could the UCI do to improve road racing?
Just making the races safer. I like that we race in such diverse environments and there are not many other sports that do this, but some aspects have to be improved.
"I really admired Robbie McEwen. I liked Robbie’s style and he was also seen as a small rider. I identi ied with that"