Anston cycling star Ben Swift hits the road this weekend, hoping for a good start in his bid to win a ride in the Tour de France for Team Sky.
Swift is finally back in racing action after a six-month layoff due to shoulder surgery, and while he admits it will take time to fully strengthen, he insists he’s race ready.
A former St Joseph’s pupil who began his career at Rother Valley Country Park at the age of three, Swift is now a determined 26-year-old who will ride through the discomfort and pain.
Speaking to the Yorkshire Post ahead of this weekend’s start of the Mallorca Challenge he said: “Technically I’ve been riding the last three years with a broken shoulder, so it’s going to take time to get back to a normal feeling.”
“It’s definitely stronger, I just need to get over that fatigue in it now.”
“To get it back to it’s normal state could take a long time, but I feel race fit because I’ll put up with anything I’ve got that is recurring.”
“It’s about the muscle patterning and imbalance now because I’ve been working for three years with a bad shoulder.
“Stuff like that can take a long time to come back from.”
The four races of the Mallorca Challenge will be followed by the Tour of Oman, starting on 18th February.
This month’s races will be a chance for Swift to get back to his sprinting best, and rediscover the form that helped him to a place in Team Sky’s Tour de France line-up in 2011.
But impressing the team bosses and claiming one of the nine roster spots for July’s main event can only begin in earnest when he’s both mentally and physically on form.
He explained: “For me it’s getting that confidence back, because for whatever reason, riding with the bad shoulder you don’t fight like you’d normally fight, you don’t go for the gaps like you normally would.”
“So you’re always starting your sprint from 10 places back of where you’d normally be. Then all of a sudden you find yourself in that scenario week in, week out. You can always lose your confidence, but once you break the ice, hopefully the wins will start coming more often.”
Already an Olympian, a world champion on the track and a multiple stage winner on the world stage, Swift could be forgiven for setting lofty targets for 2014 - especially with the Tour de France visiting his county.
His focus, however, is simply to avoid injury and get to the line ahead of his sprint rivals this month.
“I’d like a stage win, it would be nice to start the season off well,” said the Anston man.
“First and foremost, I’m looking to stay upright.”