After a frustrating year of crashes and injuries, Ben Swift (Team Sky) is looking to reignite his career on the road in 2014. The British rider missed most of the second part of this season after undergoing surgery on one of his shoulders and despite a lengthy lay-off has already set himself the lofty goal of making Sky’s Tour de France team next season. The race starts in Yorkshire, with stage 2 finishing in the rider’s home town of Sheffield, but Swift is aware that his chances of making Dave Brailsford’s final nine will depend on how he performs in the first part of the year.
“It’s so hard to make the Tour de France team at Sky with being the kind of rider that I am but with stage 2 finishing in my home town I have to do everything I can to make that team,” Swift told Cyclingnews from his current training base in South Africa.
“Targeting the programme I want and trying to win as much as possible, that’s going to put me in the best possible position.”
Swift has yet to finalise his racing schedule up until July. Final details will be discussed and inked during the team’s first training camp next week in Europe but the former Tour de Pologne and Tour Down Under stage winner is hoping to move away from Sky’s Classics core and target the weeklong stage races that pepper the opening months of the race calendar.
“I’m thinking about stepping away from the Classics team just because I don’t think they’re races that have suited me. I’d like to do a few more of the lumpy stage races, like Catalunya and Pais Vasco, where I think I can get better results.
“Doing the Classics programme took me away from those races. I’ve been okay in the Classics but it’s never been my strong point. I’ve always been better at the lumpier stage races and it just feels a bit more logical to push for that. We still have to confirm the race programme but that’s ideally where I’d like to be heading.
“This year has been really bad with the crash at the start of the season. From there I was just playing catch up all season so I can’t really take this year into account and compare it to the others. I just need to get back to what I was doing before. In 2011 I had my best year and I was performing and I need to get back to that level.”
Swift's Tour de France aspirations will depend on how quickly he can find his feet after such a long lay-off but Brailsford selected the Englishman for the race after a strong opening to the 2011 season. However, Swift's last race came at the Eneco Tour, where he abandoned on the first stage due to his ongoing shoulder issues. The injury stemmed from surgery he had in 2012 but worsened after a crash at the start of this season.
“The shoulder is a lot better and I’m really happy with it. I had to take a long time out to get it sorted but I’m actually really happy with how I’ve come back. Because I had such a long break I didn’t have to worry about cramming everything in. I could spread my recovery out and so when it came to riding my bike again I wasn’t in too bad shape. There was about an eight or nine week period in which I didn’t ride but then another two weeks where I just rode easy.
“I had a shoulder operation at the end of last year. I did the first training camp this year in Mallorca and started the season really well. Then I had a really big crash in Mallorca and really hurt my knee. When I started riding again my shoulder was giving me intense pain and it was only three months after that first surgery that I crashed. We then found out that I’d really damaged the cartilage at the back of my shoulder, just where they had repaired it and I’d ripped out the anchors they’d used to first repair my shoulder with. It was affecting my position and my sprinting but hopefully I’ve got it all sorted now.”