Door open for Swift to make claim for Tour spot

Ben Swift
Ben Swift
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The route for the centenary Tour de France may not be to the benefit of defending champion Bradley Wiggins, but it could suit Rotherham’s Ben Swift.

The 24-year-old Yorkshireman completed the Tour de France on his debut last year but missed out on selection for this summer’s race.

However, with Mark Cavendish’s departure creating a vacuum in Team Sky’s sprinting department, and Swift encouraged by a good showing in August’s three-week Vuelta Espana, he hopes to be back in the mix next year.

The route for the 100th Tour was announced in Paris yesterday, with organisers keen for positive headlines following the damaging Lance Armstrong drugs scandal.

The first Tour since Armstrong was stripped of his seven titles will end on the Champs-Elysees at night and will be less advantageous towards Wiggins’s time-trial prowess.

The 32-year-old became the first Briton to win the race this year with his strength against the clock particularly to the fore. However, the 2013 version, which starts for the first time in Corsica, is more mountainous which would not favour the Briton but instead the likes of Alberto Contador.

The four summit finishes could also benefit Swift, with fast ascents becoming his speciality.

He was Sky’s designated sprinter at the Vuelta but quickly realised the flat finishes in Spain did not suit his style.

Although he would welcome the chance to be Cavendish’s heir apparent at the highly-successful British team, the succession may not be as natural as some think.

“Cav going opens up the door a little, but I’m not an out-and-out sprinter,” said Swift.

“I prefer the summit finishes. Unfortunately there were no finishes like that in the Vuelta.

“It was still really good to be a part of a grand tour and something I want again.

“I was climbing with the key groups and if there had have been a climb to the finish that would have been perfect.”

Swift – who this week underwent surgery on a shoulder injury sustained last season – believes he needs to turn a succession of near misses into wins next season if he is to make the Tour team.

“I had two wins and then five second-places and four third-places,” he said. “I need to show more consistency and get over the line first more often.”

It remains unclear whether Wiggins will be Team Sky leader at the 2013 Tour or if Chris Froome will be granted the role in a race which features 65km of individual time-trials and a summit finish on the infamous Mont Ventoux.

Tour director Christian Prudhomme yesterday revealed a 3,360-kilometre, 21-stage route, which takes place entirely in France, beginning on Corsica on June 29 and finishing under floodlights on the most famous boulevard in Paris on July 21. The decisive blows in the battle for the yellow jersey could come on the 18th stage which features, for the first time, two ascents of the 21-turn Alpe-d’Huez in a race which incorporates all the fabled climbs.

The three stages on Corsica and team time-trial in Nice were already known, while the night finish and double climb of Alpe-d’Huez were widely rumoured, but their confirmation is sure to excite cycling followers dismayed by the Armstrong scandal.

With a route that would certainly favour his rivals it would be understandable if Wiggins was not involved next year but the Briton was still yet to fully appreciate what he would face.

“It’s more than likely I’ll ride in a supporting role for Chris,” said Wiggins, who has indicated in the past he would like to go for victory in May’s Giro d’Italia. “I just want to be in a successful team and if that’s Chris (who is going to be leader) then so be it.”

Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford was keeping his cards close to his chest about the team’s plans.

“We had the first and second-placed riders in last year’s Tour and it puts us in an interesting position going into next year’s planning,” he said. “Bradley is the reigning champion but the whole excitement now is to see what the course is like and that will dictate our plans for the team next year.

“Once we have established what the course is like then we’ll make sure we lay our resources to the best of our ability.

“It’s not about one rider or another but about the team, to put our best team out to try and win the race.”