HE has raced all over the world, but Yorkshireman Ben Swift says there is no place like home.
The 30-year-old from Rotherham made his comeback, after suffering a fractured vertebrae last month, by completing the full 701.5 kilometres of the fourth Tour de Yorkshire.
Riding for the Great Britain team, Swift was 33rd out of 98 finishers on the general classification in a time of 16 hours, 42 minutes and 47 seconds, four minutes and 47 seconds behind winner Greg van Avermaet.
The race was another triumph for organisers Welcome to Yorkshire and Amaury Sport Organisation and the county as a whole. An estimated 2.6million spectators lined the route, with 900,000 turning out in sweltering sunshine on the final day.
“The race has been fantastic,” said Swift as he caught his breath at the end of what the organisers say was the most successful edition in the event’s history.
“The weather has obviously helped with that, but, in general, everybody has grown to love the Tour de Yorkshire and last weekend did nothing but help that. You saw the best of Yorkshire there, the people, the atmosphere and the racing.”
Swift crashed out when he rode the Tour de Yorkshire three years ago and was pleased to be among the finishers on his return.
“I had no doubts about finishing it,” he insisted. “The only way I generally don’t finish races is if I crash out like I did last time. It has been unfortunate I’ve not been able to come back, but, hopefully, I’ll come back next year being able to target this race.
“I came into it massively unknown after breaking my back only three weeks ago. We are really happy with the work I’ve done here and it would be nice to target this race in the future.”
The addition of an extra, fourth, stage allowed the race planners to provide a more balanced course with two sprinters’ finishes, a summit finale and the hilly final stage.
The only way I generally don’t finish races is if I crash out like I did last time. It has been unfortunate I’ve not been able to come back, but, hopefully, I’ll come back next year being able to target this race.Ben Swift
The women’s race was doubled to two days this year and Swift feels the expansion of both has boosted the profile and made for a more spectacular competition.
“It has really added to it,” he said. “The women’s race is a massive achievement and wouldn’t it be great to see that grow on? For them, it is great to get the live coverage from the start to the finish.”
Though van Avermaet snatched the maillot bleu, the leader’s blue jersey, from Magnus Cort Nielsen in the final 20 kilometres, the fourth stage witnessed arguably the Tour de Yorkshire’s finest individual ride.
Frenchman Stephane Rossetto broke clear more than 110kms from the line and rode alone to an astonishing victory, 34 seconds ahead of second-placed van Avermaet.
“That was rather impressive,” was Swift’s assessment of the Cofidis rider’s great escape.
For Swift, who normally rides for UAE Team Emirates, last week was all about easing his way back to form and fitness and helping support members of the young national squad, including Leeds’ Tom Pidcock, who finished 89th overall, 18 minutes, 34 seconds down on the winner.
“I thought we were really good,” said Swift.
“James Shaw is a World Tour rider, but all the others are Under-23s and two of them were juniors last year.
“The way they showed themselves and committed to one another was good and, hopefully, I passed on some experience and gave them a bit of education along the way.”