No. 8 Ben Swift
Last year’s position: 25
It was a brilliant debut season for Swift, who had signed his contract with Katusha minutes after finishing fourth in the under-23 road race at the 2008 World Championships.
When a young rider turns professional, particularly one who is only 21 years old, there is no right to expect results straight away, but Swift made an immediate impact.
It was in two lumpy one-day races on consecutive days at the end of February that Swift showed he was capable of making the giant step up to the pro ranks quite comfortably. He was 10th in the GP dell’Insubria in northern Italy and eighth the following day at the GP di Lugano just over the border in Switzerland.
That was followed by a superb second place in the Nokere Koerse, finishing just behind Aussie sprinter Graeme Brown at the finish.
Fifth place in the bunch gallop at Criterium International in north-eastern France hinted at what was to come next.
At the Tour of the Basque Country, Swift’s first race at ProTour level, he had a third place, a fourth and second. On each occasion Swift led home the bunch.
Then he completed a grand tour, the Giro d’Italia, at the first attempt and finished third on the opening road stage behind Alessandro Petacchi and Mark Cavendish.
His first pro win came at the Tour of Britain in Yeovil, when his Katusha team-mate Filippo Pozzato led him out at Yeovil.
The past three months have not been ideal for Swift, who is under contract with Katusha for 2010 but clearly wants to join Team Sky.
Whatever the outcome, you have to hope that the rider’s short-term opportunities affected because his first year was outstanding and proved Swift can convert potential into results.
CW’s top 30 British riders of 2009 advent calendar