Swift determined to be first to sprint over the line in York

Ben Swift.
Ben Swift.
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With the route now set, a White Rose cyclist has his eyes fixed on a stage win in the inaugural Tour de Yorkshire as Nick Westby discovers.

Sprint star Ben Swift believes the inaugural Tour de Yorkshire route will provide an all-round challenge to the world’s best cyclists.

The route for the first stage race through the White Rose county was announced on Wednesday in Bridlington, to mark 100 days to go until the wheels turn on the Tour de France legacy race.

The seaside town hosts the start point of the first stage on Friday, May 1, a 174km route that weaves inland to the North York Moors and Dalby Forest before turning back towards the coast at Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay ahead of a long climb towards the finish in Scarborough.

Day two from Selby Abbey to York via Market Weighton and Beverley is again 174km in length and one pinpointed as a stage to suit the fastest men on two wheels, including Yorkshire’s Team Sky sprinter Swift.

There is also a women’s stage on the Saturday which will be a circuit through York.

The final stage on Sunday runs from Wakefield to Roundhay Park in Leeds. The peloton heads south to Barnsley first before going on to Holmfirth and picking up the Tour de France Grand Depart route in reverse, encompassing Cragg Vale, Oxenhope and the cobbles of Haworth.

“Each day there’s a different challenge for the riders,” said Rotherham’s Swift, 27, who enters his fifth year with Team Sky.

“The second day is obviously one for the sprinters, it’s the easier of the three days and I really like the look of it.

“On day one you could see a select group heading to the finish but with the crosswinds and the hills it will break up the peloton.

“There’s six punchy, categorised climbs on day three which is a stage for everyone.”

Swift enjoyed a stellar 2014 as one of Sky’s leading sprinters and is again targeting the big one-day races such as March’s Milan-San Remo and the world championships in Richmond, USA, in September.

But having grown up in Rotherham and still a regular rider of the roads of his home county, he is as excited as anyone about the Tour de Yorkshire.

“Once I found out the Tour de Yorkshire was happening, it was definitely on my radar,” he said.

“It comes at a really good point in the season and it’s something I’ll be targeting.”

Sprint superstar Marcel Kittel, who won stage one of last year’s Tour de France, is expected to return for a race that takes a 2.1 rating on the UCI calendar.

Swift added: “There was a lot of excitement about last year’s Tour. Every rider you speak to loved the routes and the reception they received, and there’s a lot of excitement about coming back.”

Former Team Sky doctor Geert Leinders has been banned for life for multiple doping violations, said the United States Anti-Doping Agency.

Leinders was banned for violations committed while he was the chief team doctor and a director of the Rabobank cycling team between 1996 and 2009.

Leinders worked for Sky on a freelance basis in 2011 and 2012, but his employment caused the team great embarrassment given their public commitment to anti-doping, and team principal Sir Dave Brailsford later described it as a mistake.

The USADA said in a statement: “After a hearing at which the detailed evidence, including eye-witness testimony, corroborating documentation and an expert analysis of abnormal blood values of cyclists was presented, the independent arbitration panel found that Leinders possessed, trafficked, and administered banned performance-enhancing substances and methods without any legitimate medical need, including EPO, blood transfusion paraphernalia, testosterone, insulin, DHEA, LH and corticosteroids to athletes under his care, and was complicit in other anti-doping rule violations.”