PezCycling News - What's Cool In Pro Cycling : Giro’09: Catching Up With Katusha’s Ben Swift

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Giro’09: Catching Up With Katusha’s Ben Swift
Ben Swift (Katusha & GB) was watching the Giro on TV last year at this time; now he’s jousting with Cav, Ale Jet and Tyler Farrar in hairy finishes – and fighting to survive eight hour, baking mountain epics. He was the third rider to be Pezzed at the Hermitage Hotel on the second rest day. It’s scary how young he looked as he settled into the chair opposite us.

PEZ: The Giro – what you expected, Ben?
Ben: I expected it to be hard but the heat is something else; I’ve been speaking to guys in the peloton and they’re saying that this has been a really hard Giro. We’ve only had 20 minutes of rain, the entire race. It was at 38 degrees on the Monte Petrano stage and the temperature of the tar was 48 degrees. There was a breeze on one of the descents and it felt like someone had opened an oven door.

PEZ: Remind us of your stage placings.
Ben: I’ve had a 3rd, a 12th, an 11th and an 8th. I’m happy with those placings, but a little disappointed too because I set such a high bench mark with that 3rd early in the race. It’s all new territory for me, especially after stage ten – that’s the longest stage race I’d ridden, prior to this. They say that a Grand Tour is ridden a couple of kilometres per hour faster than other races and it certainly seems that way. At the start, nobody seems to want to let breaks go; there are very few ‘easy bits.’

PEZ: You must have gained a good understanding of the other sprinter, in those gallops?
Ben: It’s the first time I’ve sprinted against Tyler Farrar, but I’ve sprinted with Cav before and against Petacchi in the Tour of Britain. I’ve learned a lot from Robbie McEwen, he’s kept in touch with me throughout the race. I’ve been trying to do it ‘Robbie style’ jumping around onto the wheels; the only thing is that everyone wants Cav’s wheel and it can end up being quite a fight for it! I don’t solely want to focus on being a sprinter though, I want to be more of an all round rider.

PEZ: Are management happy with the team so far, this Giro?
Ben: They’re a little disappointed that we’ve not had a win, but we’ll keep trying.

PEZ: ‘Pippo’ quit.
Ben: Yeah, he had a crash a couple of days ago and I think he wants to make sure he’s in top shape for the Tour.

Pozzato had a hard go of it this May, but look for a revived Pippo come Nationals in June and then Le Tour in July.

PEZ: How’s your system taking to the pro work load?
Ben: So far, so good, the last three days have been very hard, the rest day came at the right time.

PEZ: Cinque Terre?
Ben: Evil! I treated it as a hard training ride, the roads were very sticky, I was down at 30 kph after the GPM. There were no easy bits and on the hardest parts, there we’re no fans to encourage you; it was like Beijing, in that respect.

PEZ: Monte Petrano – eight hours!
Ben: When I got on the bus, I was swaying in my seat, I was pretty much out of it. I think it would have been the same result if the stage had been 40 K shorter. We had a couple of hours on the bus after it and didn’t get dinner until 10.20 – it was a long day. It was Ian Stannard’s birthday that day, I phoned him and asked if he wanted to have a beer – he didn’t answer, though!

PEZ: And the heat?
Ben: I went through 15/20 bottles on the Petrano stage; I didn’t think that stage was the worst one, I felt it more the two days previous. Mid-stage that day, I didn’t think I’d get round, it was so bad.

PEZ: When did the gruppetto form?
Ben: I was listening for the call from the start! Robbie Hunter does the sums and sets the tempo – he’s good at it.

Robbie Hunter plays the piano quite well, and thus is the man for leading the gruppetto.

PEZ: Did you get any pushes?
Ben: Just one – but the thing was, I was trying to go back to the car, but the guy was pushing me up the road I didn’t tell him to stop because he seemed to be enjoying himself so much!

PEZ: How was the rest day ride?
Ben: We just rode down to the beach, about 90 minutes. On the first rest day, we did two hours, that seemed about right because I felt fine, next day in the race.

PEZ: Hotels and food?
Ben: Can’t complain, we’ve only had one baddish place.

PEZ: Any more finishes to suit you?
Ben: Stage 18, maybe – but I’ll need to see how I feel.

PEZ: Lancemania?
Ben: It’s made my first Giro an even more special experience, when I heard he was riding it made me all the more determined to make the team. All through my growing up in the world of cycling, he was the main man – I never thought I’d ride in the same race as him.

PEZ: After the Giro?
Ben: I’ll take a break, then I have the national champs at the end of June – I was last home on the 7th of January. When the Tour’s on I’ll be riding the Tour of Austria.

With thanks to Ben to talking to old guys on his rest day.


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