Scott Thwaites has been given one last chance to audition for the Tour de France – but insists he is not relying on local knowledge to earn him a place on the startline in Leeds.
The 24-year-old from Burley-in-Wharfedale will ride the eight-day Criterium du Dauphine from tomorrow, the final and most high-profile tune-up for the Tour de France.
It is his last opportunity to impress upon team bosses at NetApp Endura that he is worthy of being named in their nine-man team for their Tour debut next month.
That he is even in this position owes much to his form in the Classics and his steady improvement as a climber.
But he is confident he is not in the running purely because he is a Yorkshireman, whose presence on stages one and two through the White Rose would be good publicity for a team that would otherwise operate under the radar.
“I don’t expect any favours,” said Thwaites, who has spent the last few weeks improving his climbing power on Tour hills like Buttertubs Pass and Kidstones.
“On the media side it would be very good but the team want to go there to win stages. There’s no room for sentiment.
“I’ve known that from the start. I’ve not relied on being the lad from Yorkshire. I’ve worked hard and got the results.”
Thwaites was last month named by NetApp on their long list of 14 riders for July’s iconic race, but his selection as a support rider for their general classification contender Leopold Konig at the Dauphine is a good hint that he is in their thinking for the Tour.
Thwaites said: “The Dauphine is a good chance to prove myself. The reason they’ve put me into this is to give me the best opportunity possible and it’s now down to me to show whether I’m worthy of Tour selection.
“I’m in the top few guys in terms of points earned so I’d have hoped to have been on the long list.
“Being included on the long list was another indication that they’re giving me every chance to make the Tour team.
“It’s nice that the team have supported me and shown faith in me.”
Those Tour candidates not involved in France this week will ride the lower-level Tour of Slovenia from July 19-22, after which, NetApp will name their nine man squad, plus two replacements, for the Tour de France.
“They’ve just said to everybody you’ve got this one chance left, an equal opportunity for all, so go and give it your best and we’ll pick the best nine guys,” said Thwaites.
“It’s exciting for everyone in the team. A lot of the guys rode the Vuelta a Espana last year but this is a whole different level for everyone. It’s the race on everyone’s wishlist.
“At the start of the year my focus was on the Classics and I managed to do pretty much how I wanted to in those. I got a second – and a third-place early on and then in the major Classics it was about gaining experience.
“The Tour has always been at the back of my mind with it starting in Yorkshire.
“This time last year I didn’t think I would have had a chance but I’ve improved and the Tour de France has become more of a realistic goal.”
Since riding the Tour of California in support of Tiago Machado, Thwaites has been back at home in Yorkshire, working on his climbing ability on some of the hills that will characterise the first two days of this year’s race. “Oxenhope to Hebden Bridge is a popular one then I’m also in the Dales on the Stage 1 climbs like Kidstones and Buttertubbs,” he said.
“I don’t think anybody in the team expects me to be a climber – I’m not built like that.
“But if I can do those climbs and use less and less energy then all the better. I’m the sort of rider that can manage a climb 5km, 6km out and then have enough left to sprint for victory, like a Peter Sagan or a Philippe Gilbert.
“Since returning from California I’ve built up a lot of power.”