Ben Swift (Team Sky) may have suffered the disappointment of missing out on the Great Britain Olympic track squad when it was announced in June, but the 24-year-old Englishman has been preparing meticulously for the Vuelta a España, which gets underway in Pamplona on Saturday.
Swift raced the Giro d'Italia in 2009 in the colours of Katusha, and was selected for the 2011 Tour de France following his transfer to Sky. This will be his first attempt at the Vuelta and his is hoping to notch his first stage win in a Grand Tour sometime over the next three-and-a-bit weeks.
Away from his track exploits, in which he won the scratch race at the world championships in Melbourne in April, Swift has enjoyed success on the road this season. He won two stages at the Tour of Poland in July and also topped the points classification. He warmed up for the Vuelta, where he will be the main sprinter in a strong Sky line up, by helping teammate Sergio Henao secure second place overall at the Vuelta a Burgos earlier this month.
“I’m feeling really good,” he told the Team Sky official website. “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."
Swift isn't daunted by his role as the team's go-to man in the sprints and will be looking to capitalise on his privileged status while also helping the team set up the general classification for Chris Froome, who has finished second overall in his last two grand tours - a narrow defeat in the Vuelta last season and second place behind Bradley Wiggins at this year's Tour de France.
“I’m really excited about being the team’s main sprinter,” he said. “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.
“We’ve got a great team which is both strong and well balanced. 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.”