From winning the Otley Grand Prix three years ago to bagging a Commonwealth Games bronze medal this summer, Scott Thwaites (Team NetApp-Endura) is enjoying a steady rise through cycling ranks.
A former Premier Calendar winner and twice victor of Tour Series rounds in his time with Endura, Thwaites has this year forced his way into the wider cycling consciousness having finished third behind Geraint Thomas and Jack Bauer in the Commonwealth Games road race in Glasgow.
Though he narrowly missed out on a Tour de France debut, instead named as first reserve for the German team’s own Tour debut, Thwaites will ride next week’s Tour of Britain as a familiar name to the British fans set to line the route.
And while his role is likely to be that of domestique for Tour de France top-ten finisher Leopold Konig, Thwaites is relishing the chance to enhance his growing reputation on home roads.
He told RCUK: “I’m feeling good, I’m looking forward to it. The stages look good and there are a lot of good riders there so I’m sure it will be another good edition.
“I’ve been in good form. I couldn’t really ask for more in this moment. I’m in good shape and I’ve just got to see how I go on the day.
“It’s always a good race to show yourself off, especially being a British rider in a British race. It’s nice to ride in front of a home crowd and show what you can do.
It’s always a good race to show yourself off, especially being a British rider in a British race. It’s nice to ride in front of a home crowd and show what you can do.
“It’s a good opportunity and, with the other big names there, if you can mix it with them then it shows your pedigree.”
Thwaites’ stock has certainly risen this year, having enjoyed debut appearances at the Tour of Flanders and Criterium du Dauphine before his Commonwealth Games success.
And the 24-year-old Yorkshireman admits the Tour of Britain is a great opportunity to showcase his growing ability.
“It’s brilliant riding in front of the home fans,” he said. “You don’t really get to ride that much in Britain with Team NetApp-Endura.
“There’s only the Tour of Britain, RideLondon and this year the Commonwealth Games for me – and of course that’s only once in a while. So it’s obviously really good.
“Having fans who know you, you get a lot more support and having other British riders around, British hotels and British food – it’s all good.”
After missing selection for the Tour de France, which started in his home county, it had appeared as though Thwaites – one of three Brits still with the Scottish-founded team after their merger with Team NetApp, alongside Erick Rowsell and Jonny McEvoy – would be denied the opportunity of adding his name to the list of rising British stars.
Just weeks later, however, he was stood on the Glasgow podium in the colours of Team England, alongside Tour de France stars Thomas and Bauer.
I think the Commonwealth Games is right up there in my career. It was a massive result for me.
Bauer’s presence presented a neat symmetry to Thwaites’ career to date, with the New Zealander having been a team-mate at Endura – and a key part of his aforementioned Otley triumph.
And Thwaites admits the bronze medal – though he refers to it only as a stepping stone – is among the biggest achievements of his career to date.
“I think it’s right up there in my career,” he explained. “It’s only once every four years and obviously it’s not as big as the Olympics but I’m still young and it’s one of those stepping stones to the Olympics.
“It was a massive result for me, and to be with those two guys who came straight from the Tour, I’m really happy that I was able to do that and show what I’m capable of doing and who I can mix it with – especially in those conditions.
“I think people had a lot of respect for all the riders that finished.”
However, missing out on silver to Bauer, after the two had joined Geraint Thomas in breaking clear of the peloton, was, by Thwaites’ own admission, a bittersweet moment.
“I think it was just nice to have raced with a guy, and then both get on the podium at the Commonwealths and be absolutely chuffed to have won a medal,” Thwaites admitted.
I think as a whole I’ve done really well this year. Each year, since I started with Endura five years ago, I’ve got better and better and it’s great to see that progression.
“He’s a great guy anyway so I was really happy. Obviously I was disappointed not to get silver, but to lose it to a good guy who has supported me – he helped me win the Otley Grand Prix, for example – it’s not really a bad thing. I was really happy for him.”
Thwaites’ performance in Glasgow was just one small part of a season which has also brought a podium place at the Ronde van Drenthe.
And Thwaites believes 2014 has been another step up on the ladder as he continues his steady rise through the ranks.
“I think as a whole I’ve done really well,” he admitted. “Each year, since I started with Endura five years ago, I’ve got better and better and it’s great to see that progression.
“I might not have shot into the limelight as much as say Adam Yates, who has had a great year, but I’ve just crept up there and got better and better, got better results, got stronger every year and raced bigger races like the Tour of Flanders and the Criterium du Dauphine.
“It is progression and I’m getting there step-by-step, rather than just jumping in. I’ve had a better season than the year before, I’ve got stronger and got better results – I’ve had three podiums this year – which is good, and I’m happy so far.”
Thwaites is clearly a very grounded rider, keen to learn, and with Team NetApp-Endura enjoying wildcard selections to some of the season’s biggest races, he has certainly been able to do just that.
And he is confident that, having finished both the Tour of Flanders and the Dauphine this season, he will be able to come back even stronger next season.
The Dauphine was just a big learning curve. I’d never done such a difficult stage race.
“Obviously it’s another level again but I think because I’ve taken it step-by-step I was able to cope better,” he said.
“During my Tour of Flanders ride I got a bit of bad luck, puncturing as there was a crash so it wasn’t an easy job to get back into the group – the cars were all stuck behind the crash – and it’s one of those races where you can’t afford to waste any energy.
“But I was there for a long time, past 200km, which was my goal really. If I’m going to be able to compete I need to be in the race past the 250km mark.
“The Dauphine was just a big learning curve. I’d never done such a difficult stage race. Climbing is not really my speciality so it was all about learning to survive, doing your job and then getting to the finish so you can help your team-mates out the next day.
“I think just to finish that race and go through the process was a big step for me and now I’ve got the confidence to go into these bigger races in the supporting role for my team leader and know I can do a decent job every day.”
And Thwaites is not the only rider stepping up year-on-year in a team which has enjoyed a landmark season. NetApp-Endura will start the Tour of Britain with both the ambition, and the firepower, to be in contention for success – be it stage wins or a tilt at the overall.
While Thwaites’ own role may see him sacrifice personal ambition, he also believes a difficult course could provide opportunities for late attacks, a la Glasgow, too.
“I think the team’s got better every year,” he explained. “We’ve gelled together now with the merger having been in place for a couple of years and we’re confident in what we are doing.
“You commit more if you trust the guys you are riding for. We are sending a really good team [to the Tour of Britain] with options everywhere.
There’s certainly some interesting stages, with small climbs just before the finish, and I think that’s good because it opens out to riders like myself who can try and get away and stick it out at the end.
“We’re sending a couple of really good guys for the sprint and we’ve got GC contenders and also guys like myself who could nip away on a chance and grab a stage, maybe catch the sprinters napping.
“I’m not really sure about the specific stages, it depends on our target for the stages and how the race is going. I’m not our guy for the sprints, so if it comes down to a bunch sprint and the main sprinters have got over the small climbs then I’ll be in the lead-out roles.
“But there’s certainly some interesting stages, with small climbs just before the finish, and I think that’s good because it opens out to riders like myself who can try and get away and stick it out at the end.
“It gives the punchier riders a chance. It will definitely be a lot more open than just a totally flat stage or a mountain-top stage where the strongest climber will win. It’s a good course this year.”
However it pans out, Thwaites – who has a full programme of one-day races after the Tour of Britain, too – will certainly end the season with a much enhanced reputation.
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