In the excitement of the Classics season opening and an unusual but epic Primavera it’s easy for results to get overlooked.
Two which caught the VeloVeritas eye were the fifth place in the Handzame Classic and seventh spot in le Samyn achieved by NetApp-Endura’s Scott Thwaites – both hard races in brutal conditions.
Thwaites is only 23 years-old but has crammed a lot in – cyclo-cross, triathlon, MTB, a British Criterium Championship, a Premier Calendar overall win and now Belgian semi-classic arrival.
His first mention in despatches was for third in the British debutants’ cyclo-cross championship in 2005; he was second in the same event in 2006 and second again at junior level in 2007.
Triathlons and mountain biking were next with a win in the British U23 MTB Championships coming along the way.
He turned pro with Endura in 2010 on the strength of that title and exploded onto the British scene with a win in the hotly contested and highly sought after Lincoln GP in 2011.
The rapid progress continued last year with a dazzling UK season; the high lights of which were the British Criterium Championship and the overall win in the Premier Calendar.
Thwaites took time to talk about his excellent start to 2013 soon after his Handzame result.
That was a good ride in Handzame, Scott.
“The weather was like most races in Europe have been this year; cold, wet and windy. At the start the wind caused a big split in the peloton but as many teams had missed it they rode to bring the groups back together on the finishing circuits.
“Coming in to the finish my team committed early at 15 K to go to bring back a small breakaway which had gone off the front; they did a great job of getting me to the red kite.
“In the last kilometre I was on my own and with a big crosswind it was difficult to move up so I made my move early and was pleased to get fifth.”
Seventh in le Samyn, another nice result.
“Yes; I was happy with seventh as I hadn’t raced for four weeks since starting my season in Argentina, so it was nice to see that my hard work at home was paying off.”
You seem to excel when the going is tough?
“I suppose from living in the North I have got used to grippy roads and bad weather.
“So when it’s like that in races I’m comfortable with it.”
How was San Luis – with the heat and the travel?
“The travel was the biggest nightmare; it took around 35-40 hours each way and with the changes in climate it was important to do everything possible to stay healthy.
“The race itself was well organised and had a great range of stages.
“I really enjoyed the week and if it wasn’t for the long travelling I’d be happy to go back.”
In the three races I’ve mentioned above you’ve been dueling with the very best sprinters; you must be pleased you’re getting so close?
“I’m happy with how my season is going so far and the team has only ridden for me once so getting three top 10 placings is great.
“I’ve still got a lot to learn and that will take time but each week my confidence is growing and I’m getting closer to the win.
“I’m just waiting for that day when everything clicks.”
You’ve adapted really quickly to the rigours of a Euro programme.
“I’ve got a coach this year which is something I’ve never had before and he’s helped me to train far better than previous years. I feel that I’m more of an all-round bike rider and a lot stronger in general.”
You won cyclo-cross medals as a debutante and junior – but didn’t pursue it, why?
“I was doing well in Britain, but it’s a massive difference from racing in Europe.
“On the road there seemed to be more money and opportunities for a competitive career in Britain and abroad.”
Then you did triathlons?
“I did a few triathlons before getting in to cycling, my dad used to do them.
“They were good fun but I couldn’t swim well enough to progress.”
And were U23 MTB champ – why come to the road?
“At that time there weren’t many MTB races in the UK and it was too expensive for my parents to subsidise my travelling all over the world to race.
“The road just had so many more races and opportunities.”
You exploded on to the road scene in 2011 by winning the Lincoln GP; that must have been a special day?
“Yes, for sure.
“Winning any Premier Calendar race would have been great, but to win the Lincoln gets you that little bit more respect.
“It also gave me the confidence in my ability and belief I could win Elite races in Britain.”
You won the crit champs and the Premier Calendar overall in 2012; many riders say you can’t really be competitive in both
“A top rider can win any race.
“I didn’t do any specific crit training; I concentrated on the road and just brought my strong roads legs to the crits. It was just a case of using my head to be in the right positions.”
It must have been reassuring that a squad like NetApp was happy to have you on board?
“I was happy to get the nod from NetApp-Endura. It was partly an acknowledgement of the results I’d achieved in Britain and in UCI races.
“But also a show of confidence in me; after three years developing with Endura they believed that I could continue to get better.”
What have been the biggest changes since the merger?
“Getting used to the different style of management and how the team is run.
“It took a few months for everyone to gel and fit in; but now the team feels very together and we are improving in races as a result.”
What’s it like getting used to the change of equipment?
“It’s not a big deal for me.
“Even if you stay with the same team, you usually get a new bike sponsor or at least a new model for each season; so every January I go through the same process of measuring everything up and transferring dimensions across to the new equipment.”