Young British riders have been making headlines all week at the Tour of Britain, and as the race heads into its final two days NetApp-Endura sprinter Scott Thwaites is aiming to join them. The 23-year-old Yorkshireman will go into the final two stages of his national tour with his sights set on adding a couple more high finishes to an already impressive tally during what is his first season at the top level.
The former British under-23 and national criterium champion was one of the Endura riders who formed what has been a highly successful union with NetApp at the start of this season. Over the year he has raced in Argentina, China and the USA, as well as all across Europe. Although a big win has so far eluded him, second place on a stage at the Tour of Qinghai Lake and top 10s at the GP Samyn, British road championship and Philly Cycling Classic suggest Thwaites will flourish after a season when his whole outlook on racing has changed.
"The key difference has been the increase in workload," Thwaites told Cyclingnews when reflecting on his year so far. "You've got to step up your training and obviously there's a lot more travel, rather than just travelling around Britain. I've been flying all over the place and that takes its toll. Also, most of the races are up near 200k a day as opposed to the British ones, which are 150 or 160. Everything has stepped up, but if you put the work in you should be able to find your feet pretty quickly."
Thwaites admits he started the year with no aspirations of getting any results. "I think I've got about eight top 10s, which has been a good start," he said, before confessing he isn't exactly sure what kind of rider he is yet.
"Obviously you can be a great sprinter in Britain, as I showed last year when I won quite a lot of races, but when you step up into Europe you're sprinting against Cav and Greipel and Kittel, and you're in a completely different league. I've got to find out what my speciality is and I think I've got to work towards losing a little bit more weight so I can get over more climbs and so that the shorter uphill finishes probably become my speciality," he said.
"I enjoy the Belgian style of racing and the poor weather conditions so I'd look towards becoming a rider who can do well in something like the Tour of Flanders with the short climbs."
The NetApp-Endura rider picks out his ride at the Amstel Gold Race in April as his season's highlight. "Obviously the WorldTour is the level that I want to ride at and getting a taste of it showed me where I am at right now and where I need to be. The crowds were huge and riding next to the world's best was really inspirational," Thwaites said.
Well up among the stage contenders on the first two days of the Tour of Britain into Drumlanrig Castle and Kendal, the Yorkshireman said it's been a hard week, primarily because of the dismal weather. "British roads are also a lot tougher than European roads – they're a lot more grippy, which saps your energy as you're riding along. Sometimes it's hard to adapt back to riding in Britain. But the crowds we've had have made it brilliant to be racing back at home."
His immediate goal is to be as prominent on the race's final two days. "The first two stages really suited me and the lads worked really well for me and gave me a good chance," he said. "I might be able to have a go again on the stage into Guildford, as the slightly uphill finish is more my speciality. We'll probably get behind [Jarc] Blaz on the final day because that is going to be a bit of a quicker sprint."
Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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