Local Riders Q&A ~ Ben Swift

Born in Rotherham in 1987, Ben Swift has had a amazing professional career and is currently the British National Road Race Champion, riding for UCI WorldTeam Team Ineos. 
He made his professional road debut in 2007 joining Barloworld as a trainee during which time he won the King of the Mountains title in the Tour of Britain.
After joining Katusha, he lead out teamate Filippo Pozzato in 2009 and described himself as "an allrounder who can do well in the Classics". He has proven himself with some amazing rides, most notably, finishing third (2014) and second (2016) at the prestigious Milan ~ San Remo mounment. 
Big thanks to Ben for taking the time to do the Mamnick quiz
As a racing cyclist, which results are you most proud of and why?
I have a few that I am really proud of, some results and some just achievements.
Representing Team GB as a 19 year old in the Beijing Olympics Road Race was very special. Along with that it was a big deal to me to be selected for my first Tour de France and making it to Paris and being in the breakaway in front of my family.
Results wise, a few stand out - my stage victory with some very elite climbing talent in Pais Vasco was a big one. I have been close a number of times there. My World Title on the track was a dream to get that jersey. Then my podiums in Milan ~ San Remo! They were special, but I would like to get that final top step! 
Which is your favourite stretches of road to ride on locally and what is it that you like about them?
There are so many to choose from, but I think one that never gets old is climbing up from Owler Bar heading to Fox House. I know its not a nice small quite back lane but the views that you get are amazing and it also brings back so many memory’s. I am fortunate to be able to use the roads now that I also did as a young and hopeful rider. Before I use to venture out further that was one of my loops in the hills, so it's nice to be able to go down memory lane.
The same question for roads anywhere in the world?
That’s a very difficult one, I am lucky to have ridden my bike in a lot of beautiful places. Each place has its own charm. But I think one that stands out is the coast road through Deia in Mallorca (not in the peak of summer, as it's too busy!) When I’m there in December, with some winter sun, quiet roads and a lovely blue sky dropping into the mountains and into the sea - it’s hard to beat!
What is your most memorable moment on the bike or involved with cycling?
I have had a lot of moments that I have relived over and over again in my head, mainly when I have come so close to winning a bike race and thinking what I could have done slightly different. But I think one that stands out and is very special is arriving in Paris in my first Tour de France. Feeling the rush and excitement and then hitting the famous cobbles, that’s a feeling and emotion that you only get once!
Has racing affected your relationship with the bike? If so, how?
It is definitely a job for me, but I love the training and the just ‘riding my bike’ side of it as well. I think the older I am getting the more I am enjoying been on my bike and going for epic rides.
Do you agree with Mickey Goldmill's advice to Rocky that 'women weaken legs'?
I think there is some truth in that, I know a lot of riders that could have been brilliant but lost their way a little and got distracted. What I think strengthens your legs is having a great woman by your side, that is with you and understands the ups and down of the sport. Cycling takes up a lot of time, so having the right woman in your life is critical.
Do you approach riding, or ride your bike, differently now to when you first got into cycling?
I have been cycling my whole life I did my first race at the age of 3, although I didn’t take it serious with training programs and stuff until I was a junior. I used to spend all my time on the bike at home, I use to train by racing my friends around and spending a lot of time in the woods on the jumps. That is something that has changed a lot, I scare myself thinking of the jumps and tricks I use to do. I have definitely lost that skill set now that I ride my bike as a job.
Who has been your favourite pro riders over the years and why?
Having been involved in my sport for nearly 30 years I have seen a lot of different riders. When I was growing up I read Cycling Weekly and I'd cut photos out to plaster my walls. But I was much more in ore of riders in our local area. I remember been excited if I saw Russ Downing, John Tanner and Chris Walker. It felt like they were the heroes of our area and I think it showed how strong Yorkshire was (and still is!).
But as I got more into watching racing I really use to love Eric Dekker, David Ecchibeier, and Robbie McEwen
What was you favourite era of professional bike racing?
It has to be the era that captured my attention the late 90’s early 00’s. It’s when the real lead-out game started and you still had people trying their hand on late attacks it was a very exciting time and even on the one-days and in the mountains, I remember watching some epic battles! 
Mudguards, mudguards and mudflaps or racing bike with clip on guards through winter?
This is a good one, I think if you are going to do it you need to do it properly and go for the full set-up of a real winter bike. Unfortunately, that’s not something I am able to do at the moment with having to use trade kit. I use occasionally the clip on guards but it cracks me when it makes noises and scratches your bike, so I prefer to go without and just get wet.
One thing for sure is that when I retire, I will be getting a very nice full winter bike! 
Do you enjoy a cafe stop or do you prefer to ride straight round?
It very much depends on what I am doing, early winter post break or recovery rides or easier general rides I do like a good coffee stop although they are different now from when I was a kid, they use to be all about beans on toast and a cup of tea. Now it's more of a coffee and maybe some cake. But when I have efforts or a solid paced endurance ride, I don’t stop.
Assos, Rapha or neither?
I have bought a bit of both in the past but I think I would choose Assos out of the two.
What is your favorite piece of cycling kit (either something you currently own or have in the past)?
I think it has to be glasses these days. I am contracted to wear my kit and ride my bike, we also have to use Oakley’s but the glasses are something that we can change around with colour and styles so it gives us a little bit of individualism.
I do remember as a kid I use to wear a very cool Pantani Pirate bandana under my helmet I don’t think I could pull that off now though actually not sure I could back then!
Do you prefer to get your head down on main roads, keep a good tempo going on the ‘B’ roads or get onto the back-wacks? What about the rough stuff on your road bike?
All depends on what I am doing and what part of the season it is. If I can and the ride allows, I love exploring and finding new roads and new climbs. Bit of the rough stuff at times is always good to keep it exciting. Sometimes I do have to crack on down the B roads but that’s my least favourite.
What do you think about Strava?
It's fun sometimes especially if you take a segment off a mate. I don’t upload much, just a little, but I think it’s a great tool to use if you are trying to look at a climb length and difficulty, every climb on there is pretty much full-gas, so you know that the time required for the KOM needs to be good.
What do you think about Sportive rides?
They are good, anything to get more people out and stuck into more riding.
Do you have any cycling pet hates?
It really annoys me when I see cyclists a bit all over the place the ones that give us a bad name. I have to spend a lot of time on the road so we defiantly get the brunt of the abuse.
Are there any cycling traditions that you think have been, or are being, lost as a result of changing attitudes and behaviour? And are we better off or worse off as a consequence?
Maybe club-rides? It use to be a big thing, maybe it still is and I just don’t see it anymore. But I remember it use to be important to join a club and do your club-run on a Sunday. Early morning in the group with a traditional café stop. Now you see a lot of smaller groups and individuals out. I might be very wrong though.
Cotton cap or helmet?
100% helmet for me
The benefits of spinning a low gear compared to mashing a high gear is often discussed. Putting aside the serious, physiological and mechanical aspects, what cadence you think looks right?
There is a balance somebody that can hold an even cadence of around 85-95 solid looking on the bike nice and fluid look great.
White, black or coloured socks?
Depends on the mood and the weather. Black in wet, nice white in the sun. Then sometimes when you don’t care, a multi-coloured pair. But out of all of them white socks and shoes is the best combo.
Frame pump or mini pump?
What do you like to talk about when you are on a ride with friends/team/club mates? Do you prefer to keep the subjects lightweight or get your teeth into something contentious or controversial?
Good bit of lightweight banter. Cycling is too hard to go into deep subjects.
Who would be/is your perfect tandem partner? Would you ride captain or stoker?
Well having done a few tandem grass track racing a fair few years ago I would have to stick with the winning combo of myself as captain and Adam Blythe as stoker. We won a few races and even managed some bunny hops.

Leave a comment