Swift’s tour de Force - VIDEO

As a youngster Ben Swift used to cycle around the lanes of South Yorkshire dreaming that he was taking part in the Tour de France.

As a youngster Ben Swift used to cycle around the lanes of South Yorkshire dreaming that he was taking part in the Tour de France.

In a perfect dreams-do-come-true scenario the Dinnington-born race ace will take his own reality check on Saturday when he begins the greatest challenge of his life in the world’s most prestigious cycle race.

This time it really is the real deal as the 23-year-old is part of the British nine-man Team Sky team that will bid for glory in the lung-busting, strength-sapping 2,130-mile, 21-stage event.

Ben said: “As a child I used to dream of one day riding the Tour de France.

“I used to answer questions from the teachers at school with ‘I will ride the Tour de France’ and ‘I want to be a professional cyclist.’

“They told me I had to work hard because it probably wouldn’t happen. That was my dream and this year I’m delighted that I get to live out my dream in what will be my first Tour.

“Every time I pin my number on my jersey in this race, I will be filled with excitement. This is the biggest, fastest and hardest cycle race in the world and I’m really looking forward to it. The team is riding well and we can’t wait to get going against the world’s best riders.

“I’ve won nearly every stage race I’ve entered this season and that helps build up morale and confidence. It’s a natural progression. I had a really good winter and managed to lay down some strong foundations while I’ve also managed to stay injury-free.”

To make the occasion even better, Ben’s best of British team includes three-time Olympic champion Bradley Wiggins who feels he’s capable of a top-three finish after his fourth place in his inaugural Tour in 2009 was followed by a very disappointing 24th last year.

“Bradley’s got a very good chance,” added Ben. “Our aim, of course, is to work as a team and get him as far up the placings as possible. We’re doing about 100 miles a day and during that time we’ve got to keep him as fresh as possible so he can make a real effort towards the end of the stage.”

On a personal note, Ben’s aim is to finish the Tour, which would be a major achievement in itself, and try to do as well as possible in the sprint stages.

“I hope to show myself in the sprints and try and beat my third place stage finish that I had in the Giro 2009.

“My team will help get me near the front. Then it’s about setting the pace and progressively getting quicker and quicker. It’s all about looking after one another.

“The mountains will be an awesome test but the one stage I’m really looking forward to is the final one, down the Champs Elysees in Paris. I was there watching the race with my dad some years ago and dreaming of what might be ...”

Hopes of a major boost before yesterday’s trip to France ended in disappointment when Ben finished seventh in the British National Championships in Northumberland. Wiggins won the day from Team Sky colleague Geraint Thomas and Peter Kennaugh.

“I had a decent race but I was hoping for better,” said Ben.

“It’s all about combinations and being in that front move and I made a mistake. The legs weren’t all that good at the start but I felt myself getting better and better as the race went on.

“Now it’s time to freshen up and get ready for the biggest challenge of my life.”

Follow Ben’s progress throughout the Tour and the rest of the season in his exclusive column in the Sheffield Telegraph.

Ben’s now has an official website, www.benswiftcycling.com