At the start of the year, the world championships that Connor Swift had in his sights were the ones set to be staged on his home roads of Yorkshire, in 2019.
But after he surprised the cycling world by winning the British road race title in July, and once Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome chose to skip this year’s world championships due to the nature of the course, Swift found his ambition fast-tracked.
Yesterday the 22-year-old from Doncaster was named in Great Britain’s nine-man squad for the elite road race on Sunday, September 30, in Innsbruck.
His selection was confirmation of just how quickly his rise has been since that breakthrough moment when he left the field in his wake in Northumberland.
“To be on the longlist with all those names was big enough, so to be selected for the race itself is pretty cool,” said Swift, who will ride in support of the Yates brothers, Adam and Simon, in Innsbruck.
“At the start of the year if you’d have said some of things I’ve achieved and that I’d then get selected for the worlds, I would never have believed you.
“I can remember when it was announced that the worlds would be coming to Yorkshire I was thinking that would be my target, how great it would be being from Yorkshire to get selected for that race.
“But I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d ever be in contention to be selected for this year’s worlds. Riding the worlds this year could put me in good stead for riding them in 2019 on my home roads.”
The British squad has been selected with one eye on next year’s renewal in Yorkshire, when the course – while challenging – will be kinder than a 259km route in Innsbruck that includes 4,670 metres of climbing.
That is one of the reasons why Thomas and Froome – winners of the last two grand tours – did not put themselves forward for selection.
But I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d ever be in contention to be selected for this year’s worlds. Riding the worlds this year could put me in good stead for riding them in 2019 on my home roads.Connor Swift
“It would have been great if they could have been there, but as they’ve both said, as tough as the course is and the season’s they’ve had, they can’t commit, which is fair enough,” said Swift.
“If either had been selected then everyone would be looking at them to win it, but their form has dropped since the tour and they’re just enjoying the last bit of the season now.”
Performance director Stephen Park confirmed: “Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas are obvious omissions from the men’s team, and this was a decision we made mutually. Given the challenging nature of the course, we want every rider selected to be able to give 100 per cent to the team, and on the back of what has been an incredible season for both, it’s understandable they are unable to commit to this.
“It shows what a great place we are in as a nation to be able to give riders such as Connor, Hugh Carthy, Dani Christmas, Alice Cobb and Anna Henderson the opportunity to make their debut appearance at world championship level.
“I’m expecting to see some good performances in each race. We can then build on this in 2019 in Yorkshire when we look forward to competing on our home roads.”
In the elite women’s road race, Commonwealth Games 2018 bronze medalist Dani Rowe will line up alongside Hannah Barnes, Christmas, Cobb, Henderson and Sophie Wright.
Great Ayton’s Charlie Tanfield will ride in the Under-23s time-trial while there are also places in the junior men’s road race for South Yorkshire’s Mason Hollyman and Leeds’s Sam Watson.
“I’m really pleased,” said Watson, 17. “It’s very surreal. As a youth rider last year I looked up to the older lads who did these races – and now I’ll be doing it.”