You’d have been hard-pressed to avoid seeing Scott Thwaites on your TV screen during Dwars door Vlaanderen. The Bora-Argon 18 rider was one of the most prominent figures in the latter stages of the race, hunting down anything that moved in the final 40 kilometres.
With the help of teammate Phil Bauhaus, Thwaites was in the box seat when the main peloton began splitting up with 70 kilometres still to go. He proceeded to jump into further splinter movements with the likes of Dries Devenyns (IAM Cycling) and Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal). He then helped chase down Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) when he went up the road in the final 10 kilometres and came home in eighth place in the final sprint, continuing what has been by far and away his best Classics campaign so far.
“I got myself up there and made all the right moves and got into all the splits so it was a good day really. I felt pretty good today,” an exhausted Thwaites told Cyclingnews at the finish. “The team backed me because I had a good opening weekend in Belgium. So I know that I’m in good shape. They just helped me and made sure that I was in the front on the important climbs and from then on I just had to ride my own race. I was trying to keep the group away, ideally, because I’m normally better from a smaller group than a big bunch. It came back and I still had something at the end, so it was ok.”
Like many riders, Thwaites’ journey to his debut Dwars door Vlaanderen was far from simple. He was due to travel through Brussels on Tuesday but had to find an alternate way to Belgium following the terrorist attacks in the capital. At the time of his travel, he was unsure whether he would even be racing when he made it to the country. In spite of initial security concerns, organisers were able to hold the race.
“I think that it was great that the event went ahead and we’ve shown how popular cycling is here because all the fans still came out, which was great,” said Thwaites. “You’ve got to put that in the back of your mind. It’s obviously terrible what happened. My travel plans and a lot of other people’s travel plans were affected but all you can do is ride in memory of those people and just do your best.
“I think once you’re on the start line you’re just ready to go. It’s a job and we all want to race. There’s nobody that turns up and doesn’t want to be here.”
Performing in the monuments
Thwaites has a packed schedule at the Classics, riding E3 Harelbeke on Friday and the Three Days of de Panne next week. It is all building up to having another tilt at the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. Thwaites made his debut at ‘De Ronde’ in 2014 and rode Paris-Roubaix for the first time last year.
After a strong spring so far with second at Le Samyn - behind Niki Terpstra - and a top 10 finish at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, Thwaites is full of confidence going towards his biggest goals. “I’ve made a step up each year and I’ve made another step this year and I’m getting a bit closer each year and I’m also learning the roads which helps a lot,” Thwaites told Cyclingnews. “I’d like to hold this form a little longer and bring it into the big classics Flanders and Roubaix. I don’t have any massive ambitions. I think that I’m still a few more years away for really fighting for the win but I’d like to be up there and do something like I did today. To be up there in the splits and to be there or thereabouts coming into the finish.”
At 26, Thwaites is now into his fourth season as a professional, and he believes that he’s on the cusp of becoming a contender in the major races.
“To step up to 260 is another hour and a half and I think that I need to get another year in my legs to really go for those. Having said that, I’m just going to try and go there get the best result that I can and just do what I do in the shorter races and just try to be there when it kicks off,” he said.