HARD, EVEN by Yorkshire standards.
That was how home rider Ben Swift summed up the elite men’s race which closed the UCI Road World Championships.
Of the 197 riders who set off from Leeds yesterday morning, Swift was one of only 46 to reach the finish in Harrogate.
And that was after the length of the race was reduced – and the tough Buttertubs and Grinton Moor climbs bypassed – due to torrential rain and flooded roads.
Swift, the British champion, clocked a time of six hours, 34 minutes and six seconds to cover the 260.7 kilometre course and finished 31st, six minutes, 38 seconds behind winner Mads Pedersen.
“It was a really tough day out there, pretty epic weather,” said the Rotherham man.
“It definitely was [hard, even for Yorkshire], it was cold, it was quite windy at times and there was a lot of big, deep puddles out there which made it more difficult.”
Despite that, Swift insisted he never considered throwing in the towel.
“No, you don’t want to give up,” he said.
“You go until you can’t go any more. That’s pretty much what I did.”
Huge crowds turned out at roadside and, as the only Yorkshire-based competitor, Swift received the loudest cheers.
Of the fans who stood for hours in the driving rain, he said: “Incredible, the atmosphere was buildng and building and it was amazing to see so many people there in this pretty bad weather, so thanks to them.”
Swift’s team-mate Geraint Thomas was one of the riders who did not finish.
The 2018 Tour de France winner said: It’s never nice, personally, not to finish, but the support was second to none.
“We rode well together [and] the crowd was really good. This is something we’ll remember for sure.”
Even Pedersen was surprised at the ease with which he out-sprinted Italy’s Metteo Trentin, a past stage winner in all three Grand Tours. Stefan Kung, of Switzerland, took bronze.
“It was brutal, a pretty rough day, 10, 12 degrees and a lot of water,” Pedersen said.
“It was a really tough day, but that’s the way I like to race.”