LOCAL HERO Scott Thwaites has pledged to “go down fighting” when the Tour de Yorkshire visits his home roads next May.
Stage two of the four-day event finishes on the Cow and Calf in Ilkley, which guarantees Thwaites will have the support of what is expected to be a massive crowd.
“It’s pretty much my home town,” said the 27-year-old, who is from nearby Burley-in-Wharfedale and attended Leeds Metropolitan University.
“I know a lot of the routes, even the last stage run into Leeds is very close to where I live.
“The crowds in that area will be really big and winning on the Cow and Calf would be a dream.”
Thwaites will be under pressure to perform on what is set to be an eye-catching and stage over 149km from Barnsley, but admits he is unlikely to be in peak form at that time of the season.
Yorkshire crowds celebrated a home success seven months ago when Lizzie Deignan stormed to victory in the women’s race, which finished in Harrogate, but no local rider has ever won a stage in the three years of the men’s event.
“Everyone’s already talking about it,” Thwaites said of his prospects of glory in Ilkley.
“When Lizzie won last year it was amazing, being the local girl.
I will give it my best shot, but at that time of year it is difficult for me, coming out of the classics and having a break. I am never quite in my best form.Scott Thwaites
“It would be nice; I think that is the one thing Yorkshire is still missing, a local person in the men’s race winning something.
“I will give it my best shot, but at that time of year it is difficult for me, coming out of the classics and having a break.
“I am never quite in my best form.
“I think if it came at the right time of the year and I was in good shape anything would be possible, but – having said that – I will do my best and if anything, I will go down fighting.”
Thwaites is likely to be joined on the startline in Beverley on May 3 by Dimension Data teammate Mark Cavendish, a former world champion and 30-time stage winner in the Tour de France.
Both Britons will fancy their chances, with two sprint stages – from Beverley to Doncaster on day one and Richmond to Scarborough 48 hours later – designed to suit Cavendish.
“It’s another brilliant route,” said Thwaites who finished 53rd on last year’s general classification, having helped teammates Serge Pauwels and Omar Fraile Matarranz to first and second place.
“With the extra day it’s another challenge and the first summit finish on the Cow and Calf is going to be pretty spectacular.
“As always it has got a couple of sprint stages and a couple of hilly stages, so it’s a nice route.
“Last year we showed how strong the team was and how well we work together.
“It was a fantastic achievement to go one and two on such a gruelling final stage and to take the overall and the team classification. It was a nice clean sweep for us so the pressure will be on for next year to try and repeat that.
“I am pretty sure it will be difficult to do that again, but if we can come away with a stage or a few stages and maybe have a crack at the overall again, that would be good.”
Dimension Data are a key sponsor of the Tour de Yorkshire, which will give the team extra motivation.
“It is massive for us to come out and perform here,” Thwaites added.
“We have got a massive fanbase in the UK so we need to do a good ride for them and keep them supporting us and the Qhubeka charity.
“It is a brilliant race and with there being four Brits on the team it is a great opportunity to put a ride in for the fans.”
This year has been a big one for Thwaites, who made his debut for Dimension Data following a move from NetApp–Endura and finished 107th in his first Tour de France which was won by fellow Briton Chris Froome.
“I’ve really enjoyed this year,” he reflected.
“It has been a new team for me and new challenges, riding the Tour de France for the first time and everything like that.
“It was a year of firsts, but I really enjoyed it.
“I think I had a good programme and I rode well.
“I think I’ve really found my feet in this team and I enjoyed the atmosphere.
“That gives me confidence and motivation for next year.
“I really like this team. It’s a good, friendly team, there’s a few more Brits and the support is really good. We’ve got great sponsors and it is good working with the Qhubeka charity.
”I am really looking forward to staying with them next year.”