Scott Thwaites (Bora-Argon 18) has been with his current team through many of its previous guises. The young Yorkshireman joined the Continental Endura Racing team in 2010, and followed when they merged with NetApp three years ago, turning professional in the process. Thwaites came agonisingly close to his first win last season and, with a new sponsor to support him, he's ready to rectify that.
"I want to win a race because I've never won a pro race as such; I've won a few races in Britain. Last year with NetApp-Endura I had two seconds and some thirds. It was quite frustrating because I'd like to win," he told Cyclingnews.
There have been big changes at his German-registered team this winter. Endura, the sponsor that has been partially responsible for Thwaites' rise through the rankings, ended their partnership with the team along with primary sponsor NetApp. Bora have stepped up their support and the team will switch from Fuji to Argon 18 bikes. It is the ending of a long partnership for the 24-year-old but he is ready to take on the new season.
"I'm looking for a new challenge. We've got great new sponsors on board and I feel like I'm a much better bike rider and I've learnt a lot over the last five years," Thwaites said. "I feel like I'm a lot more confident. I've been to the level where you race against the big WorldTour teams and I wasn't blown out, I was still there I was still fighting for the victories.
"I think the last few years have given me the confidence to not see these guys that I grew up watching on TV as sort of people who are superhuman, they're all just men on bikes. It means I can mix it if I work hard enough."
Thwaites had a brief outing in January at the Mallorca Challenge but he will begin his season in earnest at the Tour of Qatar, where he will play a role in Sam Bennett's lead-out train, before he embarks on his classics programme. He made his debut at the Tour of Flanders in 2014 , and he's looking to progress this season.
"[I'm] going for a big classics programme this year. I kind of dipped my toes in the water last year and did some bigger ones, like Flanders, and I really enjoyed them. I think that it was a really good learning experience for this year and I think I can learn from that," he explained.
"It's something that I still need to learn about, like roads the around the area where the races are run, before I can start to get the big results in the famous races. That's what I'd really like to do. I'm just coming up to 25 so I've still got a few years to make that step."
Tour de Yorkshire
The last year has been a big one for Thwaites' home of Yorkshire with the county successfully hosting the Tour de France Grand Départ. The new three-day stage race Tour de Yorkshire will take place this year from May 1-3 and Yorkshire also recently announced its intentions to bid to host the World Championships. With the route going throwing distance from his house on the outskirts of Leeds, Thwaites is relishing the opportunity of racing so close to home.
"The Tour de Yorkshire is a great legacy event. I've had a look at the route and it goes about 200 metres away from my house near the finish of the final stage. I'm sure it will be a great event and it's got a few climbs in so it should be some really great racing," he said. "I'd obviously love to ride it. If it doesn't fall into our calendar then it would be a shame but I'll just take whichever race comes up and give it my best shot."
Thwaites was on the long-list for NetApp-Endura's debut Tour de France but he didn't make the final cut as the team put their efforts behind Leopold König, who had finished ninth in the previous Vuelta a España. Missing the Tour was an obvious disappointment for Thwaites but he accepted that it wasn't the right time. "I would have loved to ride it but it was just a bit too early for me," he said.
"I wasn't in the right condition, so I hadn't developed enough to ride it, which is a bit of a shame because it started in my home town. I think I was a bit too tired to make it and if I was to ride the Tour then I'd want to be in the best condition possible so I can do something for the team."
However, the Yorkshireman believes he will be ready if the opportunity comes around this time. "I'm a year stronger and a year older, so I've learnt a bit more. This year my provisional programme is really good in the lead up to it and now that I'm a year wiser in terms of what I need to do to be there. I'll give it my best shot but I think that all depends on the focus that the team has at the Tour."