THE leadership of the GB squad for today’s men’s road race at the World Championships in Spain falls to one of the less well known British cyclists in Ben Swift.
Chris Froome, the 2013 Tour de France champion, will ride the 254.8-kilometre route – 14 laps of the 18.2km course – in the service of the 26-year-old from Rotherham.
Sir Bradley Wiggins, who added the time-trial world title to his glittering cycling CV, will not be riding, nor will 25-times Tour de France stage winner Mark Cavendish.
Cavendish was the second and most recent British winner of the road race title, taking the rainbow jersey in Copenhagen in 2011 to follow Tom Simpson’s victory in 1965.
Swift, pictured, is seeking to join an elite group, but faces numerous challengers. Slovakia’s Peter Sagan will be difficult to shake on a course which appears to suit his characteristics. Germany’s John Degenkolb showed at the Vuelta he can endure undulating terrain before triumphing in a sprint from a select bunch.
Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland is a multiple world time-trial champion but opted to focus on the road race instead.
Britain’s nine-man squad includes Swift, Froome, Geraint Thomas, Pete Kennaugh and Scotland’s David Millar, who will be racing for the final time in a GB jersey before retiring at the end of the season. Britain have options depending on how the race develops, but after his gruelling Vuelta campaign, Froome is happy to work in the service of others.
Froome said: “We’re all getting behind Swifty. He’s very much up for it and we’ve got quite a well-balanced team to help.”
Swift, a Team Sky rider since the team’s inception in 2010, was third in the Milan-San Remo classic in March and was second on stage three of the Giro d’Italia to Dublin in May.
Winning in Ponferrada would surpass anything he has previously achieved, although Swift won the scratch race world title on the track in Melbourne in 2012 before missing out on selection for the 2012 Olympics.
Yesterday, in the women’s road race, France’s Pauline Ferrand Prevot won gold as Marianne Vos’s eight-year run of podium finishes ended.
Ferrand Prevot won a sprint ahead of Germany’s Lisa Brennauer, the time-trial champion on Tuesday, with Emma Johannson third.
Vos, the Olympic champion, fell short on the undulating 127.4-kilometre course (seven 18.2km laps).
The Dutchwoman was tenth, while Britain’s Lizzie Armitstead was seventh.
Johansson made her bid with 5km to go, with Yorkshirewoman Armitstead and Vos on her wheel.
The trio were joined by Italy’s Elisa Longo Borghini but the quartet’s lack of co-operation cost them when a group bridged the gap.
“I messed it up,” Armitstead said.
n Scotland’s Callum Skinner seized his third title of the week when he took the honours in the individual sprint at the British Track Championships in Manchester last night.
The 22-year-old won the kilo time trial on Thursday and followed it up with victory in the keirin on Friday.
Skinner progressed through the knockout stages then saw off Olympic team sprint gold medallist Phillip Hindes in the semi-final to reach the final where he faced Matt Crampton.
The Scot took the first ride before being pipped in the second leg to send the race into a decider which Skinner won to secure his gold.
Mark Stewart made it a successful night for the Scots when he took the honours in the men’s points race.