World Tour rider Connor Swift had a crack at the UK's first-ever UCI gravel race, The Gralloch, which happened to tie in with his latest training block. After a go-ahead from Team Ineos Grenadiers to go off-road racing - something the team takes seriously with riders such as Tom Pidcock also recently partaking in some dirt action - Swift took his brand-new Pinarello Grevil to the bike shop to get ready for the race, and ended up winning the event with an impressive solo effort.
Copy of JCZ-Gralloch- riding, by Roo Fowler
Before we get to the bike, let's do a little recap of how the gravel race played out for the 27-year-old Ineos Grenadiers rider. Swift was one of the pro racers who lined up at the front of the over 800 riders competing at the inaugural UCI Gravel World Series race.
Alongside him were riders such as Nathan Haas, Alex Dowsett, Cameron Mason and Alistair Brownlee - which meant the Saturday race was not going to be a day to enjoy the Scottish scenery. In the women's race, the lineup was as impressive, and we saw Tiffany Cromwell smash the course to victory on her new Canyon gravel bike.
The 113km course kicked off with a hefty 6km climb, followed by a descent. After the speedy start, Swift was at the front group of about 10 riders. He told us that his strategy had been to make "another selection" at about halfway through the race - which is what he did and managed to keep his solo lead until the very end. The men's start time was 40 minutes later than the women's but Swift's effort got him to the finish line ahead of the women's race winner Tiffany Cromwell.
Although Swift looked quite fresh at the finish, he admitted the race was perhaps a slightly bigger effort than he had anticipated:
"The course was great, I probably committed to my effort a little bit too soon and I didn’t get to enjoy all of the scenery because I was going pretty deep, but the route was amazing that was a proper gravel race. We touched the roads just a couple of times, we had a mega day with the weather, a cracking race and I really enjoyed being here and pulling off the win just tops it off really.
"It’s a real slog because even on the false flats you’re pushing over 300 watts to keep that momentum and speed up and then when you do go to the climbs the power’s really there," Swift said.
Connor Swift Gralloch win , by Roo Fowler
The race-winning bike - Pinarello Grevil F
The Gralloch was Swift’s third-ever ride on the Pinarello Grevil F, which he had received only four days prior to the race. He’s built the special frameset - which features chrome branding instead of the usual black - with “a mishmash of Shimano parts” combining Dura-Ace, GRX and Ultegra parts he had laying about.
2023 Gralloch - Connor Swift bottle cages, by Suvi loponen
Despite this being his first-ever gravel race, Swift is no stranger to off-road riding, as in 2021 he was in Scotland taking on the West Highland Way on a mountain bike, and shaved off nearly an hour of the Fastest Known Time for the rough route.
For The Gralloch, Swift opted for a rather road-orientated overall set-up. His pedals are SPDs, and the groupset only features Shimano’s gravel-specific GRX components at the brake callipers.
2023 Gralloch - Connor Swift drivetrain, by Suvi loponen
The overall groupset of Swift's Grevil consists of decade-old chrome Dura-Ace shifters, Ultegra Di2 rear derailleur and Ultegra chainset. The compact 50-34T chainrings are paired with an 11-34T cassette.
Swift had the rear shifting handled by the Ultegra Di2 derailleur which is not gravel specific and doesn't feature a clutch that helps keep the chain tight and in place on rough surfaces. Swift did suffer a couple of mechanicals related to the electronic shifting and the chain dropping during the race, so perhaps he'll switch to a clutch-actuated derailleur in future races.
Connor Swift Gralloch chain drop, by Roo Fowler
Of course, this would be no bike check without looking at the tyres. Conditions on the race course in Dumfries and Galloway were dry and dusty, so Swift had wrapped the Dura-Ace wheelset with Continental Terra Speed tyres in 40mm width.
After having managed to hit the rim to a rock on the training ride due to low pressure, Swift was aiming to have around 35PSI in the tubeless tyres on race day.
2023 Gralloch - Connor Swift continental terra speed tyre, by Suvi loponen
The finishing kit on Swift’s bike is provided by Most and, the cockpit - that Swift said he took off his training bike - features a 400mm wide, flared handlebar paired with a 130mm stem. Swift used a Garmin 1040 Solar cycling computer for data harvesting.
2023 Gralloch - Connor Swift shifters, by Suvi loponen
2023 Gralloch - Connor Swift garmin, by Suvi loponen
The saddle of choice for Swift is the Fizik 3D-printed Argo Adaptive, and stashed underneath it is a PRO saddle bag that houses some more spares in addition to the CO2 canister mounted on the bottle cage.
And talking of those bottle cages, Swift went into the 113km long race with two 750ml bottles filled with SiS Betafuel - his pockets were packed with the brand's gels and chews.
The other top-finishers' set-ups were not too different to Swift's - and we're going to look at a few of them in detail in the coming days.
2023 Gralloch - Connor Swift- frame detail, by Suvi loponen
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