Scott Thwaites has been told he has as good a chance as anyone on the NetApp Endura team of making the start line for this year’s Tour de France, writes Nick Westby.
The prospects of the 23-year-old debuting in the world’s greatest bike race that begins in his home county on July 5 were boosted this week when the German team he rides for were given a wild card.
Team manager Ralph Denk has told the Yorkshire Post that Thwaites can achieve this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – if he makes the improvements the team demand of him.
Denk said: “We had a meeting with all the riders at our training camp in Mallorca where we told them that every rider has the chance to qualify.
“We will judge our nine-man team selection on performances and then do a pre-selection of the riders at the end of February. They will each have the same chance of making that 15-man pre-selection squad.
“If Scott works hard, if he stays motivated, if he improves and shows development, he will be in contention.”
Denk and the NetApp management need to see immediate improvement from Thwaites if he is to make the team’s preliminary roster. A big month begins for him at the Mallorca Challenge – a four-day series of races – from February 9.
The two-time winner of the Otley Grand Prix and national circuit race champion, earned a top-10 finish at last year’s high-profile Tour of Britain before, by his own admission, fizzling out at the end of his first year in the pro peloton.
Denk said: “Scott did a good job in 2013. You have to understand the size of the step-up he was making, he was effectively going from the second division of pro cycling to the first.
“He did some very good races, but he had problems with his climbing because the races are longer and harder and he needs to do more races like that.
“For a young rider like Scott there is a lot to improve.
“At the end of the season, though, we were happy with him and we are looking forward to working very closely with him to get him up to the level we want him to be, and where he wants to be. He has the potential and talent to become a very good rider.
“Scott showed his talents last season in the mid-level races, so we have worked and planned together with our sports directors on a plan to suit Scott.
“He will ride for his own success in some races and the team will support him, and sometimes he will race to try and get the team success.”
Whether or not he makes the team, Thwaites’s intricate knowledge of the Yorkshire roads the Tour will wind through on July 5 and 6 is something Denk will tap into.
“I hope Scott is in the line-up then he can give the rest of the team that vital information,” said Denk.
“It’s always good to have riders who have an inside knowledge.”