Britain’s Ben Swift made an impressive return to competition after an injury-stricken season to finish third at the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic on Sunday.
The Team Sky rider had been out of action since a shoulder injury sustained at Tour de Yorkshire in May and looked perfectly positioned for a fairytale comeback, having made the decisive eight-man break with around 37-kilometres left to race.
But the sprint didn’t work out in the favour of the Yorkshireman, and sprinter Jean-Pierre Drucker of BMC Racing took his opportunity on the Mall, narrowly pipping Team LottoNL – Jumbo’s Mike Teunissen.
Mixed emotions after today. Really happy to be back racing and in the mix. But hard to come close after a hard race. Loved it though.— Ben Swift (@swiftybswift) August 2, 2015
The early action centred around an initial breakaway containing Britain’s Erick Rowsell (Madison Genesis) and Peter Williams (ONE Pro Cycling), which stayed until the race reached the iconic London 2012 climb of Box Hill, when an attack instigated by BMC’s Rohan Dennis and pre-race favourite Philippe Gilbert put paid to their early efforts.
Rowsell had, over the initial laps in Surrey, done enough to secure the King of the Mountains competition, while Williams’ time in the break was beset with numerous mechanical problems.
But the BMC-powered attack was brought back by Mark Cavendish’s Etixx Quickstep team, who had two cards to play – the Manxman or the sqaud’s talented young sprinter Fernando Gaviria.
Then the decisive move occurred; Drucker, and Lotto Soudal’s Kenneth Van Rooy instigating a move, soon joined by Swift, Gaviria, Leigh Howard (Orice GreenEdge), Sep Vanmarcke (Team LottoNL – Jumbo), Mike Teunissen (Team LottoNL – Jumbo) and MTB Qhubeka’s Kristian Sbargli.
With such a strong contingent of World Tour teams in the mix, the impetus to chase was quickly lost and the octet quickly gained time and it was clear that the 2015 winner was amid them.
With just over 12 kilometres to go, Vanmarcke launched a solo attack as the race passed Wimbledon Common. The Belgian looked set for victory, gaining over 20 seconds as the kilometres ticked by. But the man in yellow began to fade as the chase behind intensified.
At two kilometres to go Swift, Teunissen and Drucker had caught Vanmarcke and the sprint was on, Swift finding himself inadvertently sheltering fast man Drucker as the race hit the Mall, the BMC rider moving around him to take a narrow win from Teunissen, with Swift third, a place behind his 2014 effort, where he was pipped to the win by Adam Blythe.
The race also saw the Great Britain Cycling Team of Germain Burton, Gabz Cullaigh, Scott Davies, Matt Gibson, Jake Kelly, Ollie Wood debut the 2015/16 adidas Great Britain Cycling Team kit, launched to coincide with the tenth anniversary between the team and the sportswear brand.
Davies was Great Britain Cycling Team's best-placed finisher, coming home in the main group three minutes and four seconds down on the winner, in 52nd position.
Crowds were also treated to an appearance from Sir Bradley Wiggins, at the head of his eponymous squad, one of eight British squads in the UCI 1.HC categorised event.
1. Jean-Pierre Drucker (BMC Racing)
2. Mike Teunissen (Team LottoNL-Jumbo)
3. Ben Swift (Team Sky)