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Kisses for stage winner Ben Swift (Team Sky)
Team Sky sprinter back to his best after successful spring
With three wins so far this season and a podium spot in Milan-San Remo, Ben Swift has arguably been Team Sky's biggest success story of 2014 and he is hoping to carry his form into Sunday's Amstel Gold Race.
Swift came into the season on the back of an injury hit 2013 but immediately picked up two podium places in the Mallorca Challenge. He backed that up with third in Milan-San Remo and capitalized on his form with an individual and team win in Coppi-Bartali. A fine sprint win on the penultimate stage of Pais Vasco followed and on the eve of Amstel he has found the crucial ingredient that has been missing from his racing in the last twelve months: confidence.
"I'd gone well in Pais Vasco in the past and it was a race I wanted to perform in this time around. I was happy more than anything with the stage win. It gives me a lot of confidence for the next couple of weeks because to be honest that was the biggest thing that I was lacking after last year," he told Cyclingnews.
"Milan-San Remo gave me confidence and the belief that I could still perform and then going to Coppi Bartali and riding well there and at Pais Vasco, it's made me feel better in myself. Now I just need to
get ready for Amstel."
According to Swift, Team Sky has yet to designate leadership roles but he admits that the Amstel Gold Race suits him far better than the other Ardennes Classics.
"I know that it's going to be super tough and even though I've got good form I know that I'll have to be on a really good day. Amstel suits me a lot better now with that flat section at the top of the final climb though."
"I've showed that I've got pretty good form but being honest we've got a strong team and a number of people who can step in. I want to perform well but team leaders haven't been announced yet."
Swift has been studying the favourites for the first Ardennes Classic.
"Gilbert rode under the radar at Pais Vasco so I think he's going to shine," Swift said.
"Then you've got Michal Kwiatkowski, who is an obvious one and then Alejandro Valverde. I think it will be between them but if I'm able to fight with them I'll be happy with that."
Thoughts on the Tour de France
After his strong start to the season Swift already has one eye on objectives for later in the season. When speaking to Cyclingnews during the Mallorca Challenge at the start of the year he highlighted the Tour de France as a major ambition, with the first two stages taking place in his home county of Yorkshire.
Since then, while Swift certainly hasn't poured cold water on the idea of making the Tour de France team at Team Sky, he has broadened his possible targets, with the Vuelta also mentioned.
"When we spoke back then, I said that the best route for me to take was to come out strong at the start of the season and get results but the Tour is a difficult one" he admitted Cyclingnews.
"It would of course be nice to be there and there are two stages here in Yorkshire but actually on a performance level for myself it might be better to target the Vuelta and possibly be a co-team leader in
looking for stages."
"If I go to the Tour it would purely be in a support role. That would be good, the Tour is the biggest race in the world but there are options for the team to weigh up."
"I've done the Tour once before, and it's a great race, but perhaps in a couple more years I can challenge for stage wins and the green jersey but I think that after the last couple of years and the setbacks that I've had, I need to progress up that level."