Ben Swift tips Jonathan Tiernan-Locke to be Team Sky's rider to watch in 2013
By Matt Westby - follow @MattSkyCycling. Last Updated: 21/01/13 6:00pm
Jonathan Tiernan-Locke: Has joined Team Sky from Endura Racing
Team Sky may have signed marquee names such as Dario Cataldo and Vasil Kiryienka during the off-season, but Ben Swift has tipped the lesser-known Jonathan Tiernan-Locke to be their man to watch in 2013.
The 28-year-old Englishman has arrived from Endura Racing after an impressive campaign last season saw him win both the Tour of the Mediterranean in February and then the Tour of Britain in September.
It was enough to convince Dave Brailsford to bring him into the Sky fold as one of eight new signings that have also included the highly rated young American duo of Joe Dombrowski and Ian Boswell.
But Swift, who has been riding with his new team-mates at training camps in Mallorca over the winter, revealed it is Tiernan-Locke who has so far caught the eye.
Swift has been impressed by Tiernan-Locke in training
"I think one of the biggest new signings for us is Jon," he told Sky Sports. "He had a great season last year and I think he is going to be one to watch.
"He fits in really well with the team - it feels like he has been part of the team for years. He is going to be great for us."
Tiernan-Locke, a punchy climber with the potential to win both one-day and stage races, followed up his Tour of Britain victory with an arguably even more impressive 19th-place finish in the world championship road race in Limburg, the Netherlands, in September.
But he won't be the only Team Sky rider with ambition to make an impact on the one-day scene in 2013, as Swift himself is building up towards his first full tilt at the spring Classics.
Although he has ridden some of them before, he has never done so with the intention of challenging for victory. This year, however, he has spent the winter training as part of Team Sky's "Classics Group" and is keen to challenge the world's best one-day riders.
"I'm looking really forward to the Classics," he added. "I have done one or two Classics before, but I've never really had it as a focus.
"There are 10 [Team Sky] riders putting in for the Classics - we are calling it the 'Classics Group' almost - and the two biggest races out there are the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
"I would like to be selected for both and just see what I can do because I have done Flanders before, but I hadn't been gearing up specifically for that race.
"So I am looking forward to doing the Classics with them as a focus and seeing what I can achieve. I am aiming towards future around those sort of races."
After the Classics campaign, sprint specialist Swift will turn his attention back towards stage races and shaking off the status of "nearly man" he picked up last year after collecting a clutch seconds and thirds but only two wins, both at the Tour of Poland.
The departure of Mark Cavendish to Omega Pharma - Quick-Step should present him with more opportunities to do that, although Swift insists being in the same team as the world's best sprinter was never an obstacle.
Upping the win-rate
"In general, I just want to take my win-rate up and win a lot more this year," the 25-year-old explained.
"I got two wins last year, but got eight seconds and five thirds, or something stupid like that, so it is just a matter of trying to turn those seconds and thirds into wins.
"It's not a case filling the gap that Cav has left because I never really raced with him that much last year. A lot of the time I was racing for myself anyway."
Cavendish was one of eight winter departures from Team Sky, who were the joint-busiest UCI WorldTour team in terms of transfers along with Saxo-Tinkoff and Ag2r-La Mondiale.
Despite such a huge turnover of riders, Swift insists stability has not been compromised and the squad is stronger for the changes.
"It's funny because at the start of each year you think, 'How can the team get any better?' he added.
"We had a fantastic year last year, but then you see the new signings that we have made and you think, 'Wow, this is going to be a good team'.
"The whole atmosphere is great, everyone is getting on great and everything is going well.
"Everyone fits in perfectly. The big thing I have noticed is there are no egos and everyone genuinely is friends."