Giro d'Italia: Swift looks to hillier stages to unseat Kittel

Nothing to be done. When Ben Swift looks back over the finale of stage 3 of the Giro d’Italia in Dublin, he will find little cause for recrimination. The Sky man hit all of his lines but simply came up against a virtuoso performance from Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano).

After drawing the benefits of the Cannondale train’s efforts in the final two kilometres, Swift’s teammate Edvald Boasson Hagen hit the front on the last chicane into Merrion Square and strung out the bunch still further as the drag to the line began to bite

Swift, meanwhile, was tucked in third wheel, just behind Elia Viviani (Cannondale), and once Boasson Hagen swung over, he opened the throttle and moved clear. With Kittel lagging in tenth position and seemingly out the running, the scene was set for Swift and he looked to have timed his effort well. Certainly, he didn’t seem to tie up in the closing metres, but even so, he was overhauled at the death by Kittel, who had somehow retrieved the situation in the final 150 metres. Nothing to be done.

Even after coming so close to landing the win, Swift was admirably sanguine about his performance when he spoke to reporters immediately on crossing the line. “I’m pretty happy,” he said. “Obviously it would have been nice to win. To lose so close to the line… It just shows how quickly he was coming because he beat me by almost a bike length in the end.”

Bernhard Eisel was the man charged with shadowing Swift through an often rainswept stage that brought the Giro peloton from Armagh and through County Louth before finishing in the Irish capital. Once in the streets of Dublin, where, mercifully, the rain had held off, it was Boasson Hagen who piloted Swift to the front.

“The guys did an absolutely brilliant job, Bernie was protecting me all the way and then Edvald did an absolutely amazing job into the finish. It was perfect because I knew there were a bit of problems behind,” Swift said. “There was a bit of a headwind, and I was just waiting and waiting. I thought I had it in the end, but Marcel was just coming so fast.”

This is Swift’s first Giro appearance since he lined up a neo-professional in 2009. On that occasion, he also gave note of his quality on the opening Sunday, placing third behind Alessandro Petacchi and Mark Cavendish in the bunch finish in Trieste, but this time around he enters the race operating on another level.

Swift has enjoyed a fine start to the 2014 season, taking third place at Milan-San Remo in March, and then following up with stage victories at the Settimana Coppi e Bartali and the Tour of the Basque Country. In the absence of a bona fide general classification leader, Swift will have space to chase stage victory at this Giro, and like the maglia rosa Michael Matthews, he is pragmatic on the thorny subject of trying to beat Kittel in the sprint.

“I’m definitely optimistic for later in the week and I wanted to get in the big bunch sprints early on, but I’m more focused on the lumpier stages to come,” Swift said. In particular, Wednesday’s finish at Viggiano, a hilltop town in Basilicata, seems well-suited to a rider of his characteristics. “Yeah, that would be perfect,” he said.

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Barry Ryan
Head of Features

Barry Ryan is Head of Features at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation (opens in new tab), published by Gill Books.