Ben Swift has revealed he quit Team Sky to focus on his goals in 2017.
The 28-year-old from Rotherham has joined TJ Sport for next season, the World Tour team formerly known as Lampre-Merida.
Swift was with Sky from the team’s inception in 2010, contesting the Tour de France the following year and the Giro d’Italia in 2014.
He also had a couple of podium finishes in the Spring Classics to boost his cv, but more often than not he found his opportunities to shine limited by Sky’s stellar cast, fronted of course by the likes of Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome.
Swift hinted to this newspaper at the start of the year that 2016 would be his final season with the British squad because of the support role he was left to play, and a new deal with TJ Sport has given him the chance to become a leading man within a team.
“Stepping away from Team Sky is a big change, but it was an opportunity that I couldn’t say no to,” said Swift, whose new start will begin at the Tour Down Under in January, after a winter’s training camp in South Africa.
“My contract was up for renewal and I wanted to see what options I had floating around out there. TJ Sport came with the best opportunities and deal, and they wanted to sign me as a leader.
“I want to take that next step, and although I’ve had a fantastic seven years at Team Sky, I am very limited in what I can do there. It was quite a hard decision because everything else was so good at Sky. It was pretty much like a family for me, with the riders, and even the staff. I’d been working with Rod Ellingworth for 10 years and Dave Brailsford for the best part of 14.
“At TJ Sport we’ve got a team with a lot of guys who can lead, but at Team Sky my role was becoming more and more second fiddle, and especially on days where I could perform.
“I can’t fault the opportunities that I was given, but it was just becoming harder and harder.
“The opportunity at TJ Sport was the best one for me. There are not many guys who are the exact same as me, who can sprint a bit, go well in the mountains and target the harder days.”
Swift now hopes that versatility will earn him a second shot at the Tour de France in 2017.