Premier Calendar Series champion, British Crit Champion and now with the goal of joining the World Tour; Scott Thwaites’ ambition rests on a performance at the under-23 world championships. Andrew Kennedy talks about his season so far and prises out a few training secrets.
The winner of the 2012 British Cycling Premier Calendar series Scott Thwaites seems to have been around for quite a few years, but in reality the 22 year old Endura Racing rider from Burley-in-Wharfedale burst onto the British racing scene as winner of the 2011 Lincoln Grand Prix, snatching a glorious victory from Ian Bibby and Jonny McEvoy on the cobbled climb of Michaelgate.
Just two weeks previous, Thwaites had been a Leeds University student dividing his time between studies and bike racing. With his finals complete, he dedicated himself to becoming a full time cyclist with Endura and began an 18-month winning streak culminating in the 2012 Premier Calendar title.
Despite these successes, Thwaites remains the reserved, younger brother of gregarious Mark Thwaites, both popular members of the British road racing fraternity. In training, Scott can be almost invisible in the cycling groups of north Leeds and the Wharfe Valley.
Totally devoid of arrogance and ego, he can usually be found sat quietly with a few of his training mates sipping cappuccinos in the Cavendish Pavilion cafe at Bolton Abbey the day after a major win.
But put this young man on a bike, line him up with the best riders in the country and you can't fail to notice him, especially in the closing stages of the race. The quietly spoken guy transforms into something much more hostile, with an air of belligerence and total self-confidence only true sporting champions possess. In the finale of a professional bike race Thwaites will be ready to defend his position any way he can, it will be dangerous, there might be blood spilt on the tarmac and he will certainly upset his fellow competitors, sometimes even the judges, but for sure it will be exciting to watch and usually he will be on the top step of the podium to celebrate.
On a Thursday morning mid-way through the road season however, Thwaites is enjoying a short break in the domestic calendar and relaxes in the Strid Café at Bolton Abbey, with a little time to reflect on his third season with Endura – which is where we start our interview.
"I've seen quite a few changes with them in that time, particularly the management. Julian Winn is the directeur sportif now and it's very settled. My first year or so I was still at university and wasn't totally committed because I had a lot of study to get through, but as soon as I completed my finals I was full-time and able to give it 100%. Within a couple of weeks I'd won the Lincoln Grand Prix and suddenly the team sat up and took notice. I followed that up with some great rides in the Tour Series where we knocked Rapha off the top spot and then went on to have a great season. The early part of this season has been good, I've won the Premier Calendar Series, Elite Circuit Championship in Otley and we dominated the Tour Series, so yes I'm happy so far, but we're only half-way through the season."
What do you have planned for the rest of the season?
"It's very important that I get selected by the team to ride the big events, the under-23 road world championships is also a big showcase race which I need to perform in to help me progress to the next level. My contract with Endura ends in December, I need to get noticed by other teams (Thwaites later signed for the merged Endura-NetApp squad - ed.) and the only way to do that is by getting results in the best races. UCI races abroad are my best option, so I need to get myself into a position where the team selects me for those events and get selected for GB teams. Endura has a big squad of top quality riders and we have to compete with each other just to get selected."
At 22 years of age and with the results you've achieved do you feel as though you've completed your apprenticeship and ready to step up?
"Definitely, I've got the capacity and the ability to ride in the World Tour, I just need the opportunity. I'm good friends with Luke Rowe (Team Sky rider) and he tells me at that level each race you feel better and stronger. I know it's a big step up but I'm ready for it."
Do you think the level of aggression you show on the bike is absolutely necessary to advance your career?
"Of course it is, all the best riders are aggressive, just look at Mark Cavendish, it's that will to win, when I'm in that situation that's all that matters. But it's a fine line and I'm always careful to make sure I play within the rules, without overstepping the boundaries. I'm still discovering and don't always get it right, but I'm willing to learn and always trying to improve. I don't spend the whole of a race being horribly aggressive to people but during the sprint it's a very important tool to have. The races I've done abroad are a lot harder than our domestic races, you need to be able to influence the race and let people know your there, I don't want anyone to think I'm timid, I want the other riders to know I'm there and that they can expect me to be battling for the win."
You've just had a few days break what did you get up to, and what's your current interests off the bike?
"I've just got back from a short holiday in Marbella with my girlfriend Jen, no cycling, just doing normal holiday stuff. Off the bike I'm like most of the guys in the peloton in that I don't do much. My time is spent being as professional as possible, I rest and recover, meet my girlfriend and have coffee with the lads."
Finally British Cycling would like some training tips to help other riders reach their full potential, what would your best training advice be to aspiring riders?
"You mean yourself don't you Andy? Just ask me straight, no need to try and cover it up with a formal question. If I was to be brutally honest, you’re well past it. My advice would be just enjoy riding to the cafe with the others, maybe sprint for a couple of signs, but make sure your phone is fully charged just in case of emergencies."
Well thanks a lot Scott, the other guys in the cafe loved that one.
With a big grin on his face Scott rode off to do a few more miles of steady recovery before resuming the racing season, which must come should he be selected for the world championships.