Ben Swift, Connor Swift and the domination of the British Road Race Championships

When Connor Swift won the British road race title in 2018, the general consensus among the cycling community was that a breakthrough moment in a young career had been witnessed.

Domination: Ben Swift, left, is congratulated by cousing Connor Swift, right, after his 2019 British road race win. Ben won the title again on Sunday. (Picture: SWPix.com)

When Ben Swift won the national jersey a year later, the feeling among the peloton was of genuine delight that one of the good guys had finally won the race he had always coveted.

But when Ben retained the British title in Lincoln on Sunday, the mood among those beaten once again will likely have shifted towards: ‘come on guys, let someone else have a turn’.

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For never in the grand history of the British men’s road race has one family held such sway.

Champion performance: Yorkshire’s Team Ineos Grenadiers rider Ben Swift celebrates winning the men’s road race through Lincoln. (Picture: Tim Goode/PA)

A Swift has won the last three stagings of the prestigious event, held over four years due to the Covid pandemic forcing the cancellation of the 2020 race.

Ben’s second win means by the time of the 2022 renewal, he will have rode in the colours of British champion for three years.

“Connor will be back next year looking to take it off me,” Ben Swift said of his cousin, nine years his junior and a rider who has used his time as national champion as the springboard many expected.

“The year before I was fourth, I’ve been second as well in the past – we’ve had a good run at the national championships.

Ben Swift of Team UAE Emirates congratulates cousin Connor Swift after he won the British title in 2018 (Picture: Simon Wilkinson/SWpix.com)

“It’s something so special to win the national championships, to extend my time in that jersey. If I was going to win one race this year, it would have been that race.

“Connor has had a long tough season with the Tour de France and it was great that he won the recent Tour Poitou, but Sunday it was a race too far for him this year. I think the fatigue of the season came home to him a bit.”

The Swifts grew up in South Yorkshire, Ben in North Anston, Rotherham, and Connor in Thorne, Doncaster.

The near-decade in age difference means they did not grow up together but that family bond has always been strong.

INEOS Grenadiers's Ben Swift wins the Men's National Road Championships in Lincoln on Sunday (Picture: Will Palmer/SWpix.com)

When Connor won his British title in 2018, Ben was the first to congratulate him, and Connor is never far away to celebrate his elder cousin’s success.

“We rode together a bit when we were younger, I used to take him out,” says Ben. “I was a professional before he really got into cycling, he was into triathlon and I was happy to let him find his own path.

“It’s quite special for us both to have won the British title, and the world championships this year were really special, representing Great Britain together. There’s not many families who can say they’ve done that.

“I’d like to think I’ve had some influence on his career, encouraging him when he was starting out, but he’s got a little bit stronger now and he can hurt me now.”

Ben Swift of INEOS Grenadiers celebrates the win in front of Lincoln Cathedral on Sunday (Picture: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)

For all his recent success, the years are advancing for Ben, who at 33 and with a young family to consider, is mindful that the next contract he is trying to secure with Ineos Grenadiers might be his last. Results like the one of Sunday can only strengthen his hand in those negotiations.

Ben Swift has been riding professionally for 13 years and even in three years as an amateur he contested world championships, the Olympic road race and the Tour of Britain.

“My dynamic as a rider has changed,” says Swift, who admits going too hard at last year’s Giro d’Italia affected his form earlier this season.

“I used to be much more about bunch sprints because I wasn’t strong enough. I was a lot faster when I was younger and I got most of my results through sprints.

“But I’ve matured a lot, I’m enjoying racing a different way now. The way racing has developed – super-aggressive, hard days in the saddle – lends itself to my style.

“In all I’ve probably done the equivalent of 14 years as a pro. That’s going to take its toll, being at that level for so long.

“I’ve seen a massive shift in the professional scene in terms of nutrition, aerodynamics, training.

“You always see it, generational shifts. From where I started out it’s a completely different sport to what it was back then.

“You have to adapt to the times, you have to learn, and I think I’m thriving in this day and age more than what I perhaps was when I was younger.

“I’m still loving riding my bike, I’m still eager, and even at this age I’m still learning.

“As long as I’m still enjoying it, keep putting the hard work in, I can stay at a high level for another couple of years.”