The moments of the Tour de France that Scott Thwaites has been waiting for are about to start.
The Burley-in-Wharfedale rider is making his Tour debut this year after being selected in Team Dimension Data’s squad.
And asked what he was most looking forward to, the 27-year-old was quick to point to the Pyrenees and the Alps – and a chance to climb the likes of the Mur de Peguere, the Galibier and the Izoard.
The race will veer towards the Pyrenees later this week after today’s rest day, with the Alps on the agenda in the third week.
“Everything is on such a massive scale,” Thwaites said as he got his head around the world’s biggest cycling race – which is being led by three-time winner Chris Froome of Team Sky with nine stages down.
“The fans have been great. I’m excited to get down to the Pyrenees and the Alps and experiencing what the Tour is really about, going over those famous climbs.”
Thwaites made his Grand Tour debut last season when he rode the Vuelta a Espana for Bora-Argon18. But having narrowly missed their Tour de France squad he moved to Dimension Data in the winter hoping to get his chance, and has duly been rewarded.
“I’d been on the long-list for a while,” he said of the selection process. “It was never on my original plan but I was riding strongly in the Classics and been riding quite consistently so they always had their eye on me.
“It was a nervous wait but I’ve had that in the past where it was a last-minute decision for the last few spots on the team. Luckily this year they have put their faith in me.”
Part of the wait this time came as Dimension Data sweated on the fitness of two of their biggest names, with Mark Cavendish and Steve Cummings fighting their way back from illness and injury respectively to start the Tour.
Thwaites was picked primarily to be part of Cavendish’s lead-out train in the sprints, only to see the Manxman crash out on stage four.
He can still serve a similar role for Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen – who was denied victory on stage seven into Nuits-Saint-Georges by 0.0003 seconds from Marcel Kittel – but Thwaites may get other opportunities as the race goes on.
“I don’t think you can change the focus, just because the competition of our team has changed,” said Dimension Data sports director Roger Hammond after Cavendish’s exit.
“We’re here to win bike races and we have to look at the best chance to do that. Will it free up Scott to do other things later on? He was free to do that anyway.
“He’s a dedicated, versatile rider. He’s not the last lead-out man, not the guy who’s got Edvald or Cav on his wheel at the end but we needed someone who can cross-over from being that lead-out guy but can also get over the climbs easily.
“We saw that in him not just in the weeks before the Tour but from the moment we signed him into the team. We signed him for a reason and he’s at the Tour for that reason.”
Thwaites’ debut Tour got off to an inauspicious start when he crashed on the opening time trial in Dusseldorf but he escaped with a few bumps and bruises.
“It wasn’t ideal,” he said with a laugh. “I think it was just my mistake. I went a bit too fast into the corner. Those things happen but luckily I came away with just a few cuts.
“It wasn’t the way I would have liked to have started, you try to stay on your bike as much as possible, but there was no harm done.”