‘Proud’ Connor Swift reflects on great experiences after completing second Tour de France in less than a year

HAVING COMPLETED his second successive Tour de France in less than a year, Yorkshire’s Connor Swift can look back on the last three weeks with a sense of achievement.

Ready to go: Thorne's Connor Swift of Team Arkea Samsic before the start of Stage 1 of this year's race - Brest to Landerneau. Picture by Alex Broadway/SWpix.com
Ready to go: Thorne's Connor Swift of Team Arkea Samsic before the start of Stage 1 of this year's race - Brest to Landerneau. Picture by Alex Broadway/SWpix.com

Swift finished cycling’s greatest stage race in 89th place, three hours, 15 minutes and three seconds behind winner Tadej Pogacar.

The 25-year-old, from Thorne, was one of only three members of his Arkea-Samsic team to get through the 3,414.4km slog, which ended in Paris, two days ago and, reflecting on the experience, he admitted: “On a personal note, I am pretty happy.”

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The Tour de France is the only Grand Tour the former British champion has ridden and to get round on both occasions is a notable feat.

Doubling up: Connor Swift rides in the 2020 Tour last September. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com

“It is my second Tour de France and I have gained more experience,” he said. “I was happy with the day I was in the breakaway, fighting for the win. The guys I was with in that breakaway were more experienced, with more results, so I was learning from how they rode that day.”

As a ‘domestique’, Swift’s main job was to look after team-mates who had ambitions to win stages or one of the race’s various classifications, particularly Nacer Bouhanni in the sprints and Nairo Quintana once the race reached the mountains.

“On a team side of things it was tough because we only finished with three guys, because of all the crashes at the beginning of the race and just bad luck, basically,” he reflected.

“The field was 182 guys and only 141 finished. It is one of the years with the most DNFs [did not finish].

“The team’s objective was to win a stage and get the King of the Mountains jersey; Nairo spent five days in the KOM jersey, but then Pogacar just went above and beyond the rest of the guys, so there was nothing we could do about that.

“I think we were really close to winning a stage with Bouhanni, he was on the podium three times. It is just a shame, with his crashes, he struggled in the mountains.”

Swift was 106th in his debut Tour last year, which took place in August/September because of Covid, but felt the 2021 edition was a harder race.

He said: “It is difficult to compare them, but the whole peloton said his year’s Tour de France has been crazy from the start. There was never an easy day for those in the bunch; in fact, the only day I’ve been told was an easier day was the one when I was in the breakaway, so I made it difficult for myself.

“That stage was apparently the steadiest day and I was out front. With Covid and the teams, this season feels different, it is just a massive fight, just for spaces and things.

“For example, in the sprint stages you’ve got teams lining up 50/60k out from the stage finish and if you are not in position 50/60k out, you have got a real job on to get all your team to the front.”

A week ago Swift was contemplating the start of three days in the Pyrenees, which represented the final major obstacle between him and Paris.

“Obviously, they are not easy,” he said of the mountain stages. “On one of the days I did a bit of work in the peloton for Nairo to go and attack, riding on the front. Knowing you have got three mountains to get over, having done a lot of work on the front, I was dreading that, but I got round in [Mark] Cavendish’s group.

“Just being in that group with him, I kind of respected how hard he has had to work. Normally, I would get over the first or second mountain and then take the grupetto in [a large group of non-climbers who band together behind the stage leaders] and you can ride easy-ish to the finish

“Whereas Cavendish, on the first climb he has got to ride a tempo to make the time cut. That day when I was in his group, it is not easy going. It is a real awkward pace and chapeau to him, battling over the mountains.

“After the rest day, those stages in the mountains, I wasn’t too bad, my legs were pretty decent so I was happy with that.”

Swift, who is now back in England preparing for the second half of the road season, also rode strongly in the final stage, which traditionally culminates in a hectic sprint on the Champs-Elysees.

He recalled: “I was just looking around, there were loads of attacks and in the end the team just said ‘see how you go for the sprint’. I was in a good position two kilometres out, but it was close to a couple of crashes and I was a bit too far back, really, but it was an incredible ride around the Champs-Elysees; that was mega.”

Swift’s future plans include some races in France and then the Tour of Britain.

“In the meantime, I am going to recover,” he said.

“I’ve got a mountain biking challenge I am going to go and do in Scotland, 150k and I think the current record is eight hours, 40.

“I am going to go up there, have a bit of fun and then focus for the second bit of the season.”