Ben Swift extended his already long stay in the British national champion’s jersey with victory in the men’s road race after Pfeiffer Georgi claimed her maiden women’s title in Lincoln.
After the pandemic saw last year’s championships cancelled and this year’s moved to the end of the season, Swift had already enjoyed 840 days in the British stripes as a result of winning the 2019 title, but had no intention of giving them up yet.
“I had to earn it for the last year,” Swift said. “It was a tough race, but I’m really happy to keep the jersey.”
The 33-year-old was active virtually throughout the 166 kilometre race, 13 laps of a circuit built around the famous cobbled climb of Michaelgate to the foot of the city’s medieval Cathedral.
Attacks flew all afternoon as the likes of Mark Cavendish, Matt Walls and Matt Holmes were spat out the back, and by the last lap Swift was left in a much-reduced group alongside Fred Wright, Harry Tanfield and Dan McLay.
As McLay faded, Swift’s Ineos Grenadiers team-mate Ethan Hayter bridged across and would take bronze behind his house-mate Wright.
“In the nationals, you have to race from the front, be aggressive,” Swift said. “You just put yourself in the front…I don’t really know how the final group of four happened. There were a few attacks, it was right place, right time. I turned around and we had a gap…
“We knew then we had to bide our time a little bit, that’s when my experience came in, doing short turns, you could see people were a little bit more nervous to stay away so they pulled a bit harder.”
Swift’s title defence comes as the Yorkshireman is close to agreeing a new contract to stay with the Ineos Grenadiers.
“This is definitely going to help,” he said of negotiations. “I’d definitely like to stay. We’re in discussions, we’re pretty close but nothing’s been signed yet. Hopefully soon.”
Swift won by a couple of seconds from Wright, who claimed the under-23 title to cap something of a breakthrough campaign, even if it tasted bittersweet to the 22-year-old.
“I’m a bit gutted I didn’t win, to be honest,” the Bahrain-Victorious rider said. “I haven’t won a bike race as a pro. I was thinking today was my chance but I couldn’t have done more.”
Earlier in the day, Georgi used a late attack on Michaelgate to take the women’s title ahead of Josie Nelson and Joss Lowden.
Revelling in the damp conditions, Georgi powered up the slippery cobbles – where gradients reach 20 per cent – to distance what had been a 12-strong breakaway after they closed down a late attack from April Tacey.
“It’s pretty special,” said the 21-year-old. “I can’t believe it, honestly.
“I crossed the line shaking my head, just the realisation I get to wear this jersey for 12 months – it’s an honour.
“When April went it got a bit nervous – everyone was looking at each other and it was a bit cagey, but then the attacks started.
“I knew if it (the gap to Tacey) was within 10 seconds, I knew you could make back time because it’s such a hard finish so I just tried to stay cool and trust I had the power at the end.”