Connor Swift had an outstanding 2018 – but he’s not standing still. At just 23-years-old, the British Champion has age on his side as he strives for a ride at the highest level.
Already on his first of three training camps, the foundations are already going in as he prepares for his third season of racing for Madison Genesis.
With 2019 underway, we talked ambitions, training and what it might take to achieve his dreams.
How was your off season?
I had a longer period off the bike this time, last year it was only a week before I raced some cyclo-cross.
This year I had a two week holiday without the bike and the week prior and after I just rode for fun.
It was a long rest but I needed it as I was still racing in October.
I definitely dropped a lot of fitness in the time off but I’ve gained it back now quickly and already my testing shows some encouraging results.
How is training progressing?
Really well. Everything is going in the right direction and I’m up on schedule. So if I get a bit sick there’s no need to panic, I can afford to take the rest I need.
What’s coming next?
I’m starting 2019 with three good blocks of training. I travel to Gran Canaria for 10-days in early January and back that up with two team training camps in early February and early March.
It’s a nice three blocks to look forward to and build on. It worked for me well last year and I’m fit, healthy and motivated so it’s all good.
What approach do you take to training?
I work together with my coach Kev Dawson.
I know what works for me now and I’m the guy that likes the base miles. Kev is old school as well and he believes in base miles and strength work around that.
For some, my training might seem a lot – I did three 17-hour weeks in December – but everyone is different. I work well under bigger weeks.
What about your diet – are you very strict, or do you have low and high carb training sessions?
I don’t fuss too much over my diet and I have treats when I feel like it to keep myself happy.
With Christmas done, I’m doing the house a favour by eating up the left over chocolates! That’s how I see it anyway.
I’ve heard from Ben about the World Tour teams doing high and low carb training and it’s something I want to try, but you need the right support for that, full time coaches and nutritionists to make sure you really get it right.
It’s not as simple as it seems and you have to respect that.
How does your training compare to last year? After so much success are you changing things much?
Compared to this time last year I’m a year older and feel stronger. I feel like my training is similar, although these camps may contain more load. In the gym I’m really seeing the difference and going heavier.
For the riding, less is changing, it’s similar content, but my numbers are higher so I’m at a higher level for my starting point. So I’ll be hoping to carry that through and come out with a higher level for racing. Of course the aim is to be progressing each year.
You post all of your training and riding data on Strava – you’re very transparent with what you do.
I don’t understand why people shy away from sharing their numbers – it is what it is. I’m not bothered.
It’s not like I’m Froome, doing an hour, or an hour and a half climb in training and the same in racing.
In the races I’m doing, it’s not about just numbers, it’s when you choose to make your effort, how much you can conserve yourself in the bunch all day – it’s racing.
Also, I know a lot of people will go in and look and dig through my numbers and I think it’s good for the supporters and the fans I have got. They respect I show the data and it’s what people want to see.
Two years ago when you joined Madison Genesis, you had just recovered from a lot of injuries in a crash. What were you thinking back then when you started out
When I started with Madison Genesis, all I wanted was to do a job for the team. I hoped to have a good winter, show good form at the training camps and show I’d be ready to be racing straight away.
That was important because I feel like the more races and training I do the better the season goes.
I was a bit shy to start with because a lot of guys knew each other and I didn’t know anyone, it was just like a big new start basically. But I quickly gained respect and then they just take you on board as a teammate, they trust you.
Connor Swift's first day at Madison Genesis HQ.
At the time I just wanted to do the best I could and then all the results came.
It’s pretty good looking back seeing what I have done these two years, all along I just want to keep on improving and I’m on that path.
All of these results have come so quickly and it’s no secret that you’re ambitious to step up to the highest level of the sport – have you had to become more patient because you haven’t been able to do that, even after such a strong season in 2018?
I can remember after that first year, talking to my old team manager on Envelopemaster. He said I had to prove it wasn’t a lucky year. I always remember people might think that – that you need to show that it wasn’t luck, but it was your capability.
The only way to do that is to go out and do it again.
I know my personal goals. I want to step up to the highest level in the sport.
So what are your goals for the season?
I don’t like to target events in particular, I just like to be going well all year. That’s partly down to my own ability, I know I can maintain a good level all year and slight peaks.
I like to go every race and be the best I can and if it’s my day I’ll grab that opportunity and race to win.
You have had a lot of good results – but what do you think it would take for you to step up to a Pro Conti or even World Tour team?
The races I want to perform in are mainly the UCI ones – they are the races that are on the radar of the top teams.
First – if we are selected – will be the Tour de Normandie. I came second on a stage last year but unfortunately didn’t make the GC move, so that’s the first target.
I’ve seen Tom Stewart win the overall there and it’s not impossible for an English guy to win the race. So I’ve got to go there firing on all cylinders and going to win the race.
Then – another race I’m hoping we can get invited to – is Tro Bro Leon. It’s a race I really enjoyed in 2017 and if we get selected I want to be up there.
In the UK, the CiCLE Classic is one I really enjoy. Last year Johnny and I were in a great position on the final lap and we both punctured, so we will be looking to put that right.
Then there is the Tour de Yorkshire, where the team have GC hopes.
Do you have any aspirations for the GC at the Tour de Yorkshire? You were in the move of the day on the final stage last year – and it’s the same route again in 2019 – do you think you could stay in touch over those climbs?
I’m not sure. In 2017 I got in a break and when you do that you scupper your chances and any good legs you might have.
Last year I lost time on the uphill finish of stage two. On the final day I got in the break which was a big move. Looking back you’d think that might stay away and it was hard to get into that as well. I surprised myself there, being with that company.
So if I don’t go into any breakaways – and I don’t think there is an uphill finish this year – then I don’t think I’m too far away.
But as a team we’ve got Matt Holmes and Ian Bibby and that’s very strong for us.
In 2019, the road world championships are in Yorkshire – is that something you’re aiming for as well?
I can’t aim to be doing the race because of selection. I just have to go about things in the right way and the way I got it selected in 2018, I have to do the same thing again this year to put myself into contention.
Of course I’d love to be doing it and it’s a course where I can get a job done. I don’t think I’ll be going for the win but also I won’t be useless, I’ll go to any race and do what I’ve got to do.
As a type of rider, you’re not a climber, not a pure sprinter – is this something you’re looking at over the winter? Have you thought about weight loss or weight gain and developing into something else?
I’m happy with the type of rider I am. I like races that whittle down to a select group. I like that. If you look at my best results in the Tour of Britain and Tour de Yorkshire, they were both when bunch was whittled down and strung out and I could sprint for a top-ten.
In that sense I’m not sprinter but I like to sprint. Also I like breaks and trying to succeed in one of those.
What’s it like having Roger as a team manager?
I haven’t seen him much in person but we’ve spoken on the phone loads and it’s like I’ve known him for years – when in reality I’ve only known him for a few months.
Surrounding myself with people who want to help me and see my succeed and get advice from them is an essential part of my development.
What makes Roger so experienced with giving that advice?
It’s the way he knows. He’s been in bad situations in the past, he tells you those stories and what he has achieved. He’s been there, done it and knows what it’s like.
His opinion is very unbiased, he always gives it from both sides and just the way he talks, he’s got a lot of time for you. You trust him very well and straight away you respect his opinion and whatever he says, you agree with.