Tour of Switzerland - Stage One

July Blog – looking back and looking forward!

Hi All
Its been a while since I have posted an update though I’m sure you can understand we are slap bang in the middle of the season now and the races and training are coming thick and fast!

First up I have to mention Froomey and how much I felt for him after he had to leave the Tour.  Chris and the team had worked so hard to make sure that they were in the best shape to win again, but as a professional you have to be philosophical sometimes and this is bike racing!  I’ve spoken about it a few times injuries, and crashes are just a part of the job and you get on with it. But there is no doubt not having Froomey and Cav at the Tour is disappointing for everyone and what with AC out now it should make for a very interesting race. So I wish Richie and the guys the best of luck and currently it looks like its shaping up very well for the team.

My last race was the British Nationals, which I really enjoyed as it was a great event and it’s rare that we get to race our teammates. I have known Pete for a long time now I know how he rides and his strengths and I knew for the last 30km’s he would be trying to get rid of me! But a sprint after a race like that is not a normal sprint. It’s more about who has position and who is that little bit fresher and stronger and Pete on the day had all 3.

Looking back I was happy with how the race went and it was good to get on the podium but its never nice to lose when I came so close to winning especially in such a significant race.

Before the Nationals I was in Italy for the Giro which of course was an amazing experience, we had a great “racing” type team and I felt that we really tried to win stages.

We didn’t have a clear GC leader, but we still always had a race plan to try and achieve our target for the day, that set up is pretty rare in a grand Tour especially for Team Sky and it was refreshing be able to race in this way. The Belfast start was incredible, everybody really got behind the race and I hope that the Giro visit has a lasting effect in the city.

One problem for me though was that it was also tinged with big disappointment, to come so close to winning a stage was frustrating though I soon got over my frustrations as we moved back to Italy and started riding the iconic climbs that filled the latter stages.

On the Stelvio and Zoncolan there is so much history so as a bike racing fan as well as a rider you can’t help but be excited to ride them even though they hurt and if you were watching the race on TV you will know the weather could have been better! But again it’s just another factor that you need to manage physically and mentally, in the end we used it as a positive and it gave the team a sense of cohesiveness and achievement racing in those conditions. I’m used to riding in bad weather but I can’t say it’s ever easy or enjoyable!

Tour de Suisse - Stage 9After the Giro there was little time to rest and it was straight into the Tour De Suisse, which was always a big target for me this year. I was adamant I wanted to do it even when I got the call to do the Giro but there is no doubt coming straight from Italy I felt some underlying fatigue. I have done a lot of training and racing this year already and that caught up with me a little in Switzerland, I felt strong and was climbing well but lacked that little bit of zip in my legs.

It was understandable but annoying at the same time!  We also had some pretty rotten luck with injuries and I hope Sergio makes a speedy recovery.

So after a little break and a recon of the world’s circuit in Ponferadda, Northern Spain, I’m off to Nice for a team training camp and to ramp up my training for The Tour of Poland and the final part of the season!

Thanks for your continued support on the road and on line it really means a lot

Take care

Ben

Basque Country Tour - Stage 5

Latest Blog live from Belfast !

Hello from Belfast everyone,

Sorry it’s been a while! I hope you are all enjoying the racing season so far… for me personally after last seasons injury, I am very happy with how the start to the season has gone.

My one main aim in the off-season was to be able to come out strong and start getting results straight away that way it would give me confidence from the off, so I put everything into starting well and I hope you have seen that I have had a good start and it has been getting better as the season has gone on! So my confidence is high at the moment and that helps me perform better as a bike racer.

I obviously put a lot into my rehab, to make sure that I came back stronger but of course the shoulder has always been in the back of my mind and occasionally I do get reminders of the pain, but this is natural and I know I still have a way to go before the pain will 100% subside and the healing process is over. It would be the same for anybody really, I’m not a robot and sometimes there are moments when you think… is it ever going to get better? But I’m happy with the progression of the injury and I know it will take time. I’m remaining focused on my rehab and all the support I get from the medical staff helps mentally so I am able to just get on with it be patient and not worry about it.

Fundamentally the operation was a success so you always refer back to that and I have a very calm and caring family who have supported me throughout and just keep reminding me to “do the work” and it will get better and so far so good!

I would like to thank my family, friends and of course the fans for the over whelming amount of support and congratulations I have had from everybody since I have returned to form this season. I always read all the good luck and well done messages, it really means a lot and it gives me that edge to keep trying harder knowing that people are really happy for you and want you to do well.

So what’s next? Well there has been talk, mostly by the media of the Tour but right now as I’m sure most of you are aware I am about to start the Giro d’Italia which is huge for me and as you would expect I’m very proud and happy to be riding in such a famous race.

It’s a great opportunity for the team and me and we will have the freedom to really race hard and go for the results, it will make riding the Tour very hard but if I’m being honest I think the Giro is a much better option for me. Of course the Tour would be amazing to ride what with the opening stage being on roads I’ve trained on thousands of times but with this Giro I will get more chances to ride for myself and go for that first Grand Tour stage win which is getting me very excited.

My form is good and my confidence is high I’ve been training well recently with my mate Russ Downing in Tuscany and I’m ready!  So bring it on Belfast!

Another reason why the Giro suits me is that it will lead straight into one of my favourite and previously most successful races the Tour of Suisse, which during the winter I highlighted as a race where I wanted to win stages.

So when I got the call for the Giro I still had the Tour de Suisse in mind and knew the two races could work well together.

I’ve got a lot of racing to go before Switzerland but you have got to have “Something to aim at” as someone once famously said :)

Legend!

Legend!

I hope you enjoy the Giro and the start in Belfast has already been a great event. Once again thanks for all the continued support and I’ll see you on the road!

Cheers Ben

Good Times ! photo: Graham Watson

Victory !

It was great to win stage 5 of the Tour of the Basque country. I will have a full update on the site very soon, thanks for all the continued support guys!

Ben

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Podium at La Primavera

It was a very long, very hard and very wet day in the saddle but placing on the podium at the historical Milan – San Remo race this weekend was no doubt my highlight of the season so far. Lasting the rain and hail and being able to keep my concentration and focus throughout the brutal but beautiful race has continued to boost my confidence. I’m really happy with the fact I was there in the mix at the end of the race for a rider type like myself that’s what its all about. Thanks to the team who rode superbly all day…!

Ben

It was a wet, wild and windy day. CK and G show their game face

It was a wet, wild and windy day. CK and G show their game face

Leaving it on the road!

Leaving it on the road!

It was a good day...looking forward to next year!

It was a good day…looking forward to next year! Congrats to Alexander Kristoff on his win

 

All photos courtesy of Graham Watson

 

 

 

 

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A good start to 2014

Hi All
So I’m happy to report that all things are well and I am feeling very good after my return to racing in Mallorca. I think everyone knew how excited I was to get back to this level of racing.

Of course I was still aware that I needed to keep focused and not throw myself into anything reckless because any lapse in concentration can put you on the deck and that could almost immediately halt all my progress.

Last year in the same event I had a spill on a tricky bit of descent which knocked my knee, so this year I made sure when I was approaching that corner I was right at the front and on my team mates wheel. I definitely made sure I was safe.

Although I don’t dwell on things like this too much (if you did you would never get on your bike!) but I just wanted to be sure I made that corner and once I had then it was on with the race and totally forgotten.

Overall I was very happy with my performance at Mallorca, I felt like I was in a good place when I was climbing and I felt good when sprinting so mentally that’s really encouraging especially after my time out.

It was very pleasing to be able to slot straight back into racing after having so much time away as you never know how long it can take to find your feet again.

As I’m sure you can imagine sprinting is never simple and the incident on my second podium was frustrating at the time, but you quickly move on and there is always the next race coming up fast so you really can’t dwell on it for too long. The positive thing is being right there contesting the sprints in my first race back, it means I know I’m heading in the right direction in terms of form

Post Mallorca, I took time to asses my condition and see how my body recovered I was feeling good so again a real positive. As athletes we are constantly making sure we are where we need to be in terms of condition, theses assessments allow us to see where we can improve and the areas that need work on.

When the season has started you can never rest on your laurels, you may of thought I might take a couple of days recovery after Mallorca but as I was feeling good I have to keep pushing forward with my training to improve.

So next up is Oman, I’m here now along with some of the best sprinters in the world, in fact I can only think of a couple that are not here so it should make for some super exciting sprints. I am looking forward to getting stuck into the days that suit me and giving it my best shot and seeing how I compare with these guys.

Amazing scenery in Oman

Amazing scenery in Oman

I feel confident I can hold my own a lot better now positionally as I am physically a lot stronger, but with so many great sprinters and sprint trains here its also going to be a test of my tactical nous to be able to pick the right ones to use.

It’s my first stage race for a while so it will be good to catch up with a few riders I’ve not seen for a bit, not that’s it’s a social occasion! We have our eyes firmly on the prize, but in the odd moments of calm we get in a race no doubt I’ll have a chat with a few old friends.

Definitely some hills!

Definitely some hills!

There are a couple of really hard days in the race and honestly I am looking forward to testing my climbing legs and if I can take my opportunities and be there challenging in the sprints for the win then great, but I am also here to help our GC contenders.

Time to go to work!

Ben

 

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The 2014 season

Hi All,
After the Xmas period I’m back at the team training camp in Mallorca and it’s given me a bit of time to be able to put pen to paper and update everyone on my progress and thoughts for the coming season.

Mallorca camp in December

Mallorca camp in December

 

 

The shoulder is doing really well I am now 4 months post op and getting a lot of the movement and strength back. There is still at lot of work to do as I got into some bad habits and bad movement patterns whilst I had the shoulder injury but it is going in the right direction and once I’ve eradicated these then I’m looking forward to getting it back to 100%.

As the shoulder gets better I am starting to tailor my training to my rider type so during the camp I have taken on a more sprint focused training program, I have been using the gym, track and road training to specifically give attention to sprinting and the specific skills needed for the discipline.

The gym has been going well and I have enjoyed it as it is a new type of training for me and I have loved getting back on the track, on the boards gives you a really different feel and you can do some pretty detailed sprint work on there. I have also been adding a lot of sprinting efforts into my road rides. This mix of disciplines and variety is good for me psychologically also as it keeps training fresh and interesting.

As I’m sure most people reading this know Mallorca is where the team does all their training camps. I thought it might be interesting if I gave you a little peek behind the scenes into how these camps are structured, for me in any case.

So on the camp in December we split the camp into two different sections, the first 4 days was a team get together basically a debrief of the season and a look towards the new year.
To be honest these are always quite long and normally boring days for the riders, as we don’t really do sitting in meetings very well (as I’m sure you can imagine!).

But I totally understand how it’s necessary and good for the whole team to get together like this. It was really positive and there was a real buzz created for the 2014 season.

The second part of the camp was about riding augmented with individual core and gym sessions. We train together on the bikes with a 10am start every morning. You get your training agenda the evening before so you know what you’re doing, for most days we are out for 5-6 hours depending what session it is.

10am start of training.

10am start of training.

The good thing about these camps for me is are there are no distractions at all, its really focused and once you get all your work done you are able to rest right with the benefits of massage and the team chef as nutrition and diet is of course so important.

I then came home for Xmas, I had a really relaxing time and the weather was fairly good so I managed to get all my work done that I wanted to do in between the December camp and the camp that will start in January. Once my training work was done I was able to take a few easy days over Christmas to enjoy time with the family

We have new kit this season and I’m really happy with it there is so much tech that goes into the kit I can’t possibly go into it all here… Suffice to say there were loads of small improvements in all aspects of it from a rider perspective the main improvements have been the changes to the cut the of the kit and for me it fits superbly.

Blue bottles this year

Blue bottles this year

After my sojourn to Nice last year we looked at a base for this year and decided I will be staying in the Isle of Man and supplementing this with going away for training camps, when they fit.
I just find that the terrain suits me a lot better there which means I can train better, the weather might not be as good but I can get enough good weather at races. The first of my personal camps will be in Tuscany in late May the season will of started by then so I’ll be fully focused on my aims this year which include…

First getting back to winning races, then getting my first grand tour stage win. I’m happy setting myself targets like this as it gives you motivation to work towards them and if you achieve them there is no better feeling!

Here is to 2014 and I’ll hopefully see you on the road!

Cheers
Ben

Inspiring South Africa Trip

As you may of read I’ve recently been on an amazing trip to South Africa. I stepped up my rehab in the warmer climate and was lucky enough to be able to experience some fantastic riding and truly inspiring experiences that will stay with me for the rest of my life. I spoke to Team Sky about my time and here are some exerts from the interview and some photos from the trip!

I knew I liked Cape Town as soon as I arrived

I knew I liked Cape Town as soon as I arrived!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

African adventure for Swift

Ben’s trip to the Southern Hemisphere however, was not memorable solely for his improved condition, but for a friendship he struck up with one of Africa’s brightest cycling talents.

Before touching down in the Western Cape, Swift had been put in contact with Nicholas Dlamini through Stephen Roche, who had spotted the 18 year old’s talents earlier in the year and then worked in co-operation with the JAG Foundation and Velokhaya Life Cycling Academy to help sponsor a trip to Europe which saw Dlamini blow the field away on a ride from London to Paris.

It was through these township community programmes that Swift arranged to take a trip to Capricorn Park where Dlamini lives, and the encounter brought about a rapport which has had a profound effect on the Team Sky sprinter.

Swift explained: “I love being based in South Africa during the off-season and as part of my training I’d decided to take part in an event called the Double Century, which is a 202km team time trial for teams of 12 riders of all ages and backgrounds. Nicholas was in the team with me so I took the opportunity to visit him after getting in touch with the people who run these fantastic community projects.

“Heading into the township was a real eye-opener because the way he lives is a world away from anything I’d ever known. Nicholas was brought up with nothing, but thanks to the support he’s received from the programmes, he’s using sport to try and make a better life for himself.

“He still lives with his mother and three sisters in a house which is no bigger than a few garden sheds, and there’s so little room he has to store his bike in the bath. Everyone I met was so friendly though, and so welcoming when we called around.

“Nicholas is a hero inside the township – they’re so proud of him because he represents their community whenever he’s competing.”

Nicholas and Ben at his home in Capricorn Park

Nicholas and Ben at his home in Capricorn Park

The Hot Chillee Squad riding the Coronation Double Century Race

The Hot Chillee squad riding the Coronation Double Century Race

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Aiming To Inspire”

Dlamini’s talents have seen him rise through the domestic ranks and he will represent South Africa at the African Championships before setting his sights on the European racing scene once his schooling finishes in 2014.

Swift is already predicting a bright future for the youngster, and has volunteered to mentor Dlamini as he prepares to make a life-changing switch to cycling’s heartland.

He added: “I’ve told Nicholas I’ll give him all the help I can and it would be great if we could get him in a few U23 races in Italy next year to test the water and see how he gets on.

“Hopefully that will sow the seeds and allow other young riders from the Western Cape to follow in his path.

“It’s an honour to be able to do something like this because as professional cyclists, we’re here to inspire and that’s exactly what Team Sky was set up to do.

“Chris Froome’s achievements have already had a massive effect across Africa and I’m delighted to do my bit as well.

“Team Sky are a massive team out here and any advice Nicholas needs, I’ll be more than happy to give it because the stories he’s told me have really inspired me as well. He’s grown up in meager surroundings to become an absolutely unbelievable rider, and the determination that must have taken is mind-blowing.”

Great times and great friends ! I'll be back

Great times and great friends ! I’ll be back