After Wednesday's hard stage between Livermore and San Jose in the Tour of California, Ben Swift is looking forward to more sprint stages. The British sprinter, who wore the first leader's jersey of this year's Tour of California, finished in the grupetto, while up ahead, Chris Horner (RadioShack) celebrated the stage victory and took over the race lead.
Though today was not a day for the sprinters at Team Sky, the team can count their visit to California a success. After Swift won the opening stage and took the leader's jersey, the team followed up with a second stage win the following day. Greg Henderson sprinted to victory in Modesto and took the jersey from his team-mate Swift.
“We’ve had two stage wins out of three, so we can’t really ask for much more,” Swift told Cyclingnews at the finish on Sierra Rd. “Yesterday we had a bit of a problem with myself at the finish, but Hendy pulled it off perfectly.” RadioShack kept the race under pressure over the stage's four climbs, which made it a tough day for the sprinters. Racing to make the time cut often sounds considerably easier than it is. “I was hurting all day today. I didn’t feel too good on the bike. But it was a good racing circuit,” said Swift.
Looking ahead, Swift may have another chance to show his speed on Thursday, though the lengthy course and the tactical choices of the general classification teams may rule out a sprint finish. “It’ll be interesting. It depends on what happened on GC today. I don’t know what is happening, because I only just got in, but it could potentially be a breakaway. Some teams still have not got stage wins yet,” Swift explained.
Both Swift and Henderson finished safely within the time limit on Sierra Rd, but the team lost two riders during the fast-paced stage. On the slopes of Mount Hamilton, both Kurt Asle Arvesen and Jeremy Hunt abandoned. The two riders were dropped early in the stage, which was fast from the gun, and could not make the finish. Arvesen started the race as a possible general classification rider for Sky, while Hunt is part of the lead-out train for the team’s sprinters.
The loss of two strong riders from Team Sky may help tilt the balance in favor of the breakaway during Thursday’s long stage between Seaside and Paso Robles. All the same, Swift will still be hoping for another shot at a sprint victory in Paso Robles. “Looking through the program, tomorrow looked pretty good and Thousand Oaks looked like a good one. Definitely not the time trial!” laughed Swift.