The Di- Data rider talks York­shire, his rise through the ranks and his Flan­ders am­bi­tions

Procycling - - Prologue -

Clas­sics spe­cial­ist Scott Th­waites on his am­bi­tions

The buzz around cy­cling in York­shire is mas­sive.

We’ve got a lot of iconic fig­ures from here. Lizzie [Deignan] grew up in Ot­ley, which is a cou­ple of miles away from where I grew up. I had a lot of men­tors, peo­ple like Sid Bar­ras and Keith Lam­bert who were top pros in their day.

They passed down their knowl­edge: how to be in a group, what train­ing to do. They taught me how to ride smoothly in a group which trans­lates well into rac­ing and sav­ing en­ergy. They also taught me re­spect. I grew up in Bur­ley, a small vil­lage, but I live on the out­skirts of Leeds now. I love the area, and it’s a friendly place. The roads around York­shire are per­fect for Clas­sics train­ing

– they’re very tough roads with lots of short punchy climbs where you can get your ef­fort out. I’m proud of where I come from but maybe I don’t ap­pre­ci­ate it as much as peo­ple vis­it­ing the area.

You ride past some amaz­ing places, like Cow and Calf rocks, but I went to school at the bot­tom for years so it’s just daily life for me. I came from moun­tain bik­ing and rid­ing smaller road races and crits. I joined En­dura and started rid­ing the Tour Se­ries and the Pre­mier Cal­en­dars. As the team grew, bring­ing in bet­ter rid­ers, I grew with the team. When the team merged with NetApp it was the right time for me.

I’d reached the limit of what I could achieve in Bri­tain – I’d won the crit na­tion­als, the U23 na­tion­als and the Pre­mier Cal­en­dar, so there wasn’t much more I could do. When that team changed to Bora that was when I knuck­led down and said I wanted to be a Clas­sics rider. I love the Clas­sics.

They are stress­ful but that’s part of cy­cling – you have to fight to be there. There is ac­tion all day, rather than some grand tour stages which can be a slow-burn­ing war of at­tri­tion. I was prob­a­bly one of the top sprint­ers in Bri­tain,

but when you are up against guys like Cav and Kit­tel you re­alise you’re not ac­tu­ally that good. In my first few years of cy­cling it was al­ways Flan­ders and Roubaix that I watched.

As a pro you want to ride the Tour but the Clas­sics re­ally caught my eye. The guys who won those were who I looked up to. I wanted to be like them. Flan­ders is the race which I hope one day will be my big win or big re­sult in the fu­ture. I love the race, I love the course, I love the fans. I’ve started to get a bit lighter to help on the climbs.

In Flan­ders I’m get­ting stronger and I’ve pro­gressed ev­ery year. I’ve been in the 70s, 60s, 20th, and this year I was sprint­ing for fifth. Ev­ery year I’m learn­ing where I need to be and how to use my en­ergy. In the fi­nal part of the race, po­si­tion­ing al­most be­comes less im­por­tant.

It’s your legs. If you have the legs, you’ll be in the right po­si­tion. I haven’t won a race yet, but I’ve been close.

I think it’s my con­fi­dence. I’ve come to the fin­ish in the smaller clas­sics and I’d usu­ally have a good chance but I’ve hes­i­tated in the sprint in­stead of back­ing my­self. I hope if I crack it once and get the win, a few more will come along. I have a few more years to come, and it will hap­pen. I got a sev­enth at last year’s Vuelta. I went in three breaks in the race and all three went to the fin­ish – I don’t know whether that was skill or luck. Each one fin­ished on a moun­tain, which didn’t suit me. When you are in there with guys like Dar­win Ata­puma and Pierre Rol­land it’s dif­fi­cult to win, but it was nice to get a top 10 in my first grand tour.

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