Connor Swift - from inspired teenager on Yorkshire roadside to Tour de France

Seven years ago an 18-year-old Connor Swift raced home from his holiday to make sure he did not miss the Tour de France peloton riding through his home county.

Tuesday, 6th July 2021, 6:00 am
Team player: Connor Swift, centre, is introduced with his Arkea-Samsic team at the 2021 Tour de France. (Picture: Alex Broadway/SWPix.com)
Team player: Connor Swift, centre, is introduced with his Arkea-Samsic team at the 2021 Tour de France. (Picture: Alex Broadway/SWPix.com)

The teenager from Doncaster, a promising rider himself, found a place by the finish line in Attercliffe, under the shadow cast by the Forgemasters building, to watch Vincenzo Nibali break away to claim victory on stage two of the 2014 race.

Fast forward to the present day and Swift takes the start line in the Alpine town of Albertville on Tuesday on stage 10 of the 2021 Tour de France.

“Back then I don’t think I was thinking about riding a Tour de France,” Swift said as he casts his mind back to an epic weekend.

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Connor Swift of Arkea Samsic pictured at last year's Tour de France (Picture: Alex Whitehead/SWPix.com)

“I was an elite rider at the time, but it wasn’t until I got on with Madison Genesis a few years later that I was able to start looking at getting to the very top level, racing in the biggest races.

“I was determined to watch the last stage out in Sheffield. I got back from my holiday and went straight out there.

“I was stood under the steelworks right next to the finish line.

“Just seeing the Tour de France in Yorkshire was fantastic and inspired me even more.”

Swift, it is safe to assume, probably wasn’t even thinking about being a Tour de France rider even three years ago, until his unexpected, breakaway win in the British road race championships accelerated his career.

His rise has been so rapid since that this is actually his second Tour de France, the 25-year-old having made his debut in the world’s greatest bike race for French team Arkea-Samsic in last autumn’s Covid-delayed race.

So the man who rolls out from Ambertville on Tuesday morning on a 190.7km flat stage to Valence will do so far removed from the wide-eyed boy of seven years ago.

The sport’s most demanding examination has certainly made sure of that.

“We’ve had a bit of carnage with the crashes, then the weather and long stages over the last couple of days; it’s all added up to a tough start,” says Swift of a brutal first first nine days.

“It’s been absolutely crazy, and then I’ve seen there’s more bad weather on the way Tuesday. What joy!”

Swift can at least apply what he learned about how his body would hold up over three weeks from last year’s Tour de France.

“I’m going into this one a bit more confident having completed the Tour last year,” says Swift, who also had the morale boost of a first win for Arkea-Samsic at a race in France in May.

“I know I’m capable of going all the way, so now it’s a case of not having any doubts in the back of my mind and just getting stuck into it, doing the job the team want me to do it.

“Last year I didn’t do much racing before the Tour de France whereas this year I’ve been able do a lot of good races, so the preparation has been better.”

That job is to help team leader and former Tour runner-up Nairo Quintana maintain the King of the Mountains jersey he heads into the second week wearing, or help sprinter Nacer Bouhanni improve on three podium finishes by winning a sprint – should a chink in the armour of a revitalised Mark Cavendish be found.

Swift will also look to get in a breakaway as he did on the first stage through his team’s home region of Brittany.

“It’s good for the team to have Nairo in the KOM jersey, and spirits are high,” adds Swift. “We’re hoping to carry that on and keep the jersey and maybe take a stage win as well.”