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"Fortunately, since then I’ve been able to rest and build up again for Yorkshire, which has been on my programme since the winter.”

Photo: Sirotti

CHRISTOPHER SUTTON

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DAVID LOPEZ

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IAN BOSWELL

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LARS PETTER NORDHAUG

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NATHAN EARLE

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PHILIP DEIGNAN

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SALVATORE PUCCIO

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TEAM SKY

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TOUR DE YORKSHIRE

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30.04.2015 @ 11:25 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

“On Ilkla Moor Baht’at” go the lyrics of a famous Yorkshire folk song - one that perhaps only Ben Swift in the inaugural Tour de Yorkshire field could translate. The Rotherham-born Swift would explain that “On Ilkley Moor without your hat” - for that is the “English” title - narrates the story of a man whose lover warns him against venturing onto Ilkley Moor without any headwear. He doesn’t listen and ends up paying the ultimate price, the winds and cold laying his body to waste.
 
Swift would also advise that herein lies a message for the riders of the Tour de Yorkshire: when they swing through Ilkley on stage 3, but also on the two previous days, they will underestimate the Yorkshire terrain and wiles of its weather at their peril. As Swift cautions, “A lot of people are going to get a shock.”
 
The Team Sky puncheur himself is taking every precaution ahead of a race in which his local knowledge, finishing speed and climbing prowess place him among the favourites. Swift’s stage win and second place overall in an exhausting edition of the Settimana Coppi e Bartali in March may have jeopardised his Tour of the Basque Country, but the Englishman claims that he now feels fully refreshed ahead of a unique opportunity to race on home roads.
 
“I won the stage in Coppi e Bartali then had to defend the leader’s jersey, and I’m not really used to going that deep,” Swift explains. “I should have rested when I got home but I carried on doing big efforts in training, plus I had to move house. The upshot was that I was exhausted when I got to the Tour of the Basque Country. I ended up not even finishing the second stage, just because I would only have been doing myself more damage by staying there. Fortunately, since then I’ve been able to rest and build up again for Yorkshire, which has been on my programme since the winter.”
 
Having missed out on selection for Sky’s Tour team in 2014 - and hence watched the Grand Départ from the sidelines - Swift is relishing the opportunity to make amends in his home region. He admits that the race route doesn’t take in many of his regular training roads, but recces of stages one and three this weekend will fill in the last remaining gaps in his local knowledge. These, too, are the stages that Swift expects to be decisive for the general classification.
 
“I’ve heard some people predict a bunch sprint on stage one to Scarborough, but that’s no foregone conclusion. The coast road going towards the finish is really lumpy, and the last climb above Robin Hood’s Bay is really steep. Then there’s the wind: it could be blowing a hoolie. The ideal scenario for me on that day would be getting away with a small group of strong guys, then contesting the sprint to perhaps pick up some bonus seconds (10, 6 and 4 seconds will be awarded to the first three finishers on stages; 3, 2 and 1 points are up for grabs at intermediate sprints).
 
“Stage two is probably the only predictable day,” Swift goes on. “That’s pretty much a certain bunch sprint. I’ll probably throw myself in there, but it’s not going to be easy with Marcel Kittel racing…  Then we’ve got the third day, which is going to be really hard. After the first climb up Holmfirth, the hills come thick and fast. They may not all be that hard but the succession of them will make it a really tough day, plus the weather could always be a factor on the hills, because they’re exposed. It’s another day for Classics riders. I’d expect Greg Van Avermaet to be up there, hopefully with me!”
 
Whoever prevails at the end of the three days, Swift expects another triumph for cycling in Yorkshire. Asked to recommend a spectator vantage point, he suggests York on stage 2, “because it’s beautiful, and you’ll see the race multiple times”, then Holmfirth on stage 3 - “a stunning village surrounded by amazing countryside.”  He then adds the following footnote: “To be honest, it’s Yorkshire, so it’ll all be beautiful.”
 
He also claims that the race will show off the legacy already left by last year’s Tour de France Grand Départ.
 
“This already feels like a massive race, no doubt because of the Tour last year. It took the Tour of Britain quite a few years to build up momentum, but this already feels big. Cycling in Yorkshire is just massive now. The number of people out on bikes at weekends is just mind-blowing. It’s hard to say how much of that is down to the Tour, because cycling was already booming, but I’m sure it’s a big part of it.”

 

Team Sky for the Tour de Yorkshire

Ian Boswell, Philip Deignan, Nathan Earle, David Lopez, Lars-Petter Nordhaug, Salvatore Puccio, Ben Swift and Chris Sutton

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