Tour de Yorkshire: Connor Swift is planning to build on his growing stature

Today will be a particularly poignant day for Connor Swift.

Connor Swift.

For not only will he ride to the start line of the Tour de Yorkshire in his home town of Doncaster – a proud moment for any cyclist – but he will do so wearing the colours of the national champion.

Last summer, Swift executed a thrilling solo breakaway ride to win the British Road Race Championships in Northumberland, comfortably the biggest accolade of the young cyclist’s career.

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It was an achievement that catapulted him into the cycling mainstream, opening him up to acclaim and recognition, when previously he was not even the most famous Swift in the peloton – that honour belonging to cousin and Team Sky rider Ben.

But shortly after 1pm in Doncaster today, Connor Swift will have a lot more eyes on him as the fifth annual Tour de Yorkshire begins.

“I will be immensely proud to wear the national jersey at my home race,” says Swift, 23.

“I can only compare it to the Tour of Britain last year and at that I had guys asking me for selfies, asking me for signatures.

“I was in the road manual book of riders to watch on the same page as Julian Allaphillipe, who’d just won the King of the Mountains jersey at the Tour de France. That’s how far I’ve come. That’s the status I’ve earned.

“It’s still hard to believe – and one of the perks is wearing the national jersey during a home race with friends and family cheering me on.”

Swift is hoping the national colours earn him greater respect in the peloton, as he looks to build on a two-year history in the Tour de Yorkshire highlighted by a sixth-placed finish in Scarborough last year.

“I really thought that was a good result at the time, but afterwards I grew a little frustrated as I thought I could have done a bit better,” says Swift, who has stayed loyal to British squad Madison Genesis for the 2019 season.

“But it has left me hungry to get into that situation again this year, and moreso with that national jersey on my back.

“Hopefully, I’ll get a lot more respect in the bunch having it on my back. If I’m trying to get up there in the finishes I might get a bit more room for myself.”

For any rider, the number of people stood on the roadside watching the race is one of the great attractions of a Tour de Yorkshire – and it is not just regular folk, as Swift remembers.

“I remember being in a breakaway one day and Alistair Brownlee was in the crowd,” smiles Swift. “The Olympic triathlon champion was just a random person on the side of the road, and I rode past and said “all right” to him. He probably didn’t know me at all but I thought it was quite funny that Alistair Brownlee was spectating me when it’s usually me watching him at the Olympics on the TV.”

The official 2019 Tour de Yorkshire programme is on sale in selected newsagents. Order by post (£2.99 plus p&p) on 0330 403 0066.