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Stage seven winner Ben Swift (Katusha)
Leaked team photo confirms transfer of British rider
The official lineup of Team Sky won’t be confirmed until the team's presentation later today but it seems now certain that Ben Swift will be part of the team in 2010.
A head and shoulders shot of Swift wearing the Team Sky jersey was published on the Wielerland and Biciciclismo sites on Sunday and this, together with his omission from the 2010 Team Katusha lineup, indicates that he will race with the new British ProTour team.
A message from Bradley Wiggins on Twitter also appeared to confirm the move.
Swift is one of the most promising young British riders in cycling, as evidenced by his fourth place in the espoirs race at the 2008 world championships. This result built upon his 2007 victory in the King of the Mountains classification in the Tour of Britain.
He signed a pro contract with Team Katusha for 2009 and 2010 and impressed in his first season with the Russian squad. Early in the year he was second in the Nokere Koerse, then took placings of second, third and fourth in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, as well as an excellent third in stage two of the Giro d’Italia.
That speed later earned him a win on stage seven of the Tour of Britain.
In recent weeks, the 22-year-old was involved in a similar tug of war as that which took place this autumn between Wiggins and Team Garmin-Transitions. Both Garmin and Swift’s Katusha team had valid contracts with the British riders, but Sky’s lawyers persisted until they got their way.
The UCI is known to be considering changing its rules this year to prevent contracts being broken in the future. UCI President Pat McQuaid told Cyclingnews in December that he was concerned at recent developments in this area, referring to Swift’s situation and also the sudden move of world champion Cadel Evans to Team BMC.
In December, Sky named Swift as part of their planned lineup for the Tour Down Under. This led to strong complaints from Katusha that he was still contracted to the team.
"Our understanding was he had become a free agent. It was planning ahead," claimed Team Principal Dave Brailsford at the time, playing down the matter. "The information we received is that he'd quit and terminated his contract.”
One month on, it appears very possible that Swift could be back in the squad bound for Australia.