HARD, even by Yorkshire standards.
That was how home rider Ben Swift summed up the elite men’s race which closed the UCI Road World Championships.
Of the 197 riders who set off from Leeds yesterday morning, Swift was one of only 46 to reach the finish in Harrogate. And that was after the length of the race was reduced – and the tough Buttertubs and Grinton Moor climbs bypassed – due to torrential rain and flooded roads.
Swift, the British champion, clocked a time of six hours, 34 minutes and six seconds over the 260.7 kilometre course and finished 31st, six minutes, 38 seconds behind winner Mads Pedersen.
“It was a really tough day out there, pretty epic weather,” said the Rotherham man.
“It definitely was [hard, even for Yorkshire].
It was cold, it was quite windy at times and there was a lot of big, deep puddles out there which made it more difficult.Ben Swift
“It was cold, it was quite windy at times and there was a lot of big, deep puddles out there which made it more difficult.”
Despite that, Swift insisted he never considered throwing in the towel.
“No, you don’t want to give up,” he said. “You go until you can’t go any more. That’s pretty much what I did.”
Huge crowds turned out at roadside and, as the only Yorkshire-based competitor, Swift received the loudest cheers. Of the fans who stood for hours in the driving rain, he said: “Incredible, the atmosphere was building and building and it was amazing to see so many people there in this pretty bad weather, so thanks to them.”
Swift’s team-mate Geraint Thomas was one of the riders who did not finish. The 2018 Tour de France winner said: “The last decade, it’s just incredible how it has grown, cycling in the UK. We don’t get the chance to ride in the UK much, especially for Great Britain, so the support out on the road was great, even with the weather.
“It has been incredible, I’ve really enjoyed it.
“It’s never nice personally not to finish, but the support was second to none.”
The Welshman was not surprised by the tough autumn conditions. He added: “It was as expected, really. It was wet, cold and not quite the feeling in the legs I hoped for.
“It was a tough day out there. I’d come here to ride for the boys and it’s not a nice feeling at a home world championships, you want to be right up there in the thick of the action, but it is what it is.
“We rode well together, the atmosphere and the crowd was really good and this is something we’ll remember for sure.”