British Cycling Podium Programme rider Ben Swift is feeling in fine form ahead of the Vuelta a Espana and will be going all-out to seal his first Grand Tour stage win.
The 24-year-old Team Sky rider has been building his condition steadily since returning from Great Britain track duty in June, and took two stage wins and the points classification in last month’s Tour de Pologne before helping Sergio Henao place second at the Vuelta a Burgos.
Those performances have boosted the Yorkshireman’s confidence no-end and he cannot wait to get his third Grand Tour appearance under way on Saturday 18 August.
“I’m feeling really good,” he told www.teamsky.com. “I was able to show people what I could do in the sprints in Poland, and Burgos was great preparation for the Vuelta. I’ve done a lot of work on my climbing over the last month and found in both those races I was a lot fresher getting over those climbs.
“That should open up more opportunities for me because although there are only three days nailed on for the sprinters, I’ve identified about nine or 10 other stages where I think I could still be up there at the end.
“I’m really excited about being the team’s main sprinter.”
“Obviously, that will depend on how the race goes and how I’m feeling, but we should have a lot of cards to play on those days and I’ll be doing my best to get in the mix when it’s slightly more selective.”
Swift goes into the Vuelta as Team Sky’s only recognised sprinter, and while he admits that brings with it a heightened responsibility, he is delighted to have been given the opportunity in one of the biggest races in the sport.
“I’m really excited about being the team’s main sprinter,” he continued. “There’s no massive pressure on me to perform but I want to put some pressure on myself, especially given the way we always look to take races on as a team.
“I’m not going to have a full lead out working for me, but there’s guys like Ian Stannard and Juan Antonio Flecha in there who are among the strongest guys in the peloton. They always do a great job of getting me into position and hopefully I’ll be able to finish things off.
“I’m going to be coming up against guys like John Degenkolb, Allan Davis and Nacer Bouhanni, but there’s no-one that stands out above the rest so hopefully I’ll be right up there.”
When Swift isn’t going for stage victories himself he will be lending his full support to his team-mates and believes Chris Froome is more than capable of challenging for top honours over the three weeks of action.
“We’ve got a great team which is both strong and well balanced,” he added. “Froomey will get all the support he needs and I’m expecting him to produce another incredible race. He’s been unbelievable this season and I’m sure he’ll be able to continue that form into the Vuelta.
“Last year he missed out on the win by 13 seconds but hopefully this year we can get him on that top step on the podium.”