Professional cycling star Ben Swift has already experienced the thrills and the agony of an Olympic Games.
The 23-year-old from Dinnington was part of Great Britain’s four-man road race team in Beijing ... a lung-busting, seven hour, 264 kilometre event that included nine, 11 kilometre climbs.
He was there for the experience but in the end Ben was the last man standing, only to finally succumb to the heat, humidity and the sheer pace of the race on the last lap.
“It would have been great to finish but, looking back, it was a massive experience and one that I’ve continued to build on,” he said.
Now London 2012 awaits and over the next few days he will know if his hopes and dreams of competing in his ‘home’ Olympics remain on target.
Ben is among nine riders, currently training in Manchester, who are aiming for the four places in the team pursuit at next week’s World Championships in Holland (March 23). The GB team of Bradley Wiggins, Ed Clancy, Paul Manning and Geraint Thomas won gold in Beijing and while Manning has now retired, the other three are bidding for London, in an event in which as a nation, we share top-of-the-world billing with Australia.
“It’s hard to say what my chances are,” said Ben. “It’s good to see so many guys in the mix but it’s going to be a tough call.
“I’m hoping I’ll be in the team and if I am then I’m on the right track for London. I’ve got as good a chance as any of the others.
“It will certainly be a big blow if I’m not selected and I may well have to reassess the situation as regards my chances for 2012.”
One thing in his favour is that he was part of the team at last year’s World Championships who finished just 0.1 of a second behind the Aussies in the final. Such is the the margin between gold and silver which is why training times are judged on tenths of a second ... be off the pace by two tenths of a second and the coach will have something to say about it!
The World Championships bring the track season to a close and Ben will then ‘return to the day job’ ... the road race programme from his Team Sky base in Italy, some 10 minutes from Florence.
He has already made a great start to this year’s campaign with two stage wins at the Tour Down Under in Adelaide and third place overall. Now he’ll get ready to test himself in numerous races in Europe and beyond over the next five months. Ben starts off in Belgium, followed by Italy, Spain, Switzerland and California before returning to England for the National Championships in Newcastle in June. Then it’s Austria, Italy, Denmark and Spain with the possibility of end-of-season races in Beijing and Japan.
It’s a globetrotting existence for a sportsman who covers around 25,000 to 30,000 miles a year on his bike after training and competition on both track and road.
He does, of course, require two very different bikes. Both are state-of-the-art carbon fibre machines, the track one being ‘pretty expensive’ while the road version is just 6.4 kilograms in weight, comes complete with new electronic gears and retails at around £12,000.
However, it’s a normal racing saddle, so getting saddle sore is still an occupational hazard. “Travelling can be quite hard but my programme is spread out so I don’t suffer from jet-lag too much although I remember in my first year as a pro I was never at home for more than five days at any one time.
“I was practically living out of a suitcase.”
Injury is a cyclists worst nightmare. Last year Ben suffered a bad back, which became inflamed, but the most common is a broken collar bone. He’s had his shoulder pinned and also had knee ligament problems but as far as Ben is concerned it’s a small price to pay for the sport he loves.
While next year’s Olympics remain his prime target, he’s also put the world famous Tour de France in his ‘to do’ box for the future.