Sometimes success or failure in cycling can be measured in the width of a tyre.
Yesterday in the third stage of the Tour de France, a 198km flat course from Olonne-sur-Mer to Redon on the Loire-Brittany border, Rotherham’s Ben Swift wasn’t that close to glory. But he was left with a minor sense of injustice that his chance of competing for the stage win in the final sprint was taken away from him by the carelessness of a fellow rider.
Swift, in his first Tour, had been given the nod during the Team Sky breakfast briefing that the nine strong squad were working for him.
And when Welshman Geraint Thomas and Denmark’s Edvald Boasson Hagen started the Sky lead-out train the 23-year-old from Dinnington was in the perfect position.
“We’ve only got two sprinters in the team,” Swift told The Star.
“I’d been told that today was my day to go for it but as we came under the 1km banner someone cut across me and I lost Edvald’s wheel.
“I got on my radio as quick as I could to tell the team car what had happened because Edvald was still in with a chance.
“It was disappointing. But that’s bike racing. The good thing about the Tour is that there’s 21 stages so I’ll get another chance soon.”
Despite his relatively tender years in terms of the Tour, Swift is highly thought of in the Sky set up and will get the green light for another attempt at a stage win before the week has ended.
Swift had an eventful four hours in the saddle. He was caught up in a slowing of the peloton as the riders prepared to cross the famous Saint-Nazaire bridge.
He said: “The peloton almost came to halt in front of me so I was off the back for a while. I had Ivan Basso with me who is one of the contenders for General Classification so I sat behind him and his team as the pulled us all back.
“There was never a need to panic because there was plenty of time.”
Perhaps fittingly on American Independence Day first over the line was 27-year-old Tyler Farrar from Wenatchee, Washington. Farrar held off France’s Romain Feillu to become one of an elite group to have won a stage at all three Grand Tours - France, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana.
The news wasn’t so good for British sprint star Mark Cavendish. Hoping to pick up his 16th career stage win at the Tour he was impeded on the final bend and was later stripped of his points from an intermediate sprint earlier in the stage.
Cavendish eventually came home fifth and will surely add to his haul. Swift ended with the same time as Farrar, moving up a place to 23rd overall.
Farrar’s Garmin-Cervelo team-mate Thor Hushovd remains in the yellow jersey for today’s fourth stage. Belgium’s Philippe Gilbert is favourite to pick up his second victory of the Tour.
Stage four - today: Lorient to Mur-de-Bretagne (172.5km). A two-kilometre climb to the finish at the summit of the Mur-de-Bretagne means valuable seconds could be lost in the race for the yellow jersey.
To follow Ben Swift’s video diary visit www.benswiftcycling.com/videos