Scott Thwaites has taken a significant step towards making a Tour de France debut in his home county by being named in NetApp Endura’s long list of riders for this year’s race.
The 24-year-old from Burley-in-Wharfedale – who has produced a string of consistent performances this season – is one of 14 names the German team are considering to make up their nine-man squad for their own debut in the Tour de France, which begins in Leeds on July 5.
They will make a final decision in late June as to their nine riders and two replacements but Thwaites’s presence in the initial squad keeps alive hopes of a Yorkshire rider starting the world’s greatest bike race right here on his own doorstep.
Rotherham’s Ben Swift has been in such impressive early-season form that he earned a place in Team Sky’s Giro d’Italia squad. However, the close proximity of the end of that grand tour to the start of the sport’s premier event almost certainly rules him out, unless he produces a stunning finish to the Giro over the coming 10 days.
Leeds’s Josh Edmondson rode well in support of Sir Bradley Wiggins at the Tour of California last week but still has a deep seam of talent to fight through in order to be named one of the riders to support Chris Froome.
Thwaites was also out on the west coast of America last week and helped team-mate Tiago Machado to a fourth-place finish in the general classification.
That represents an impressive result for Pro Continental team NetApp, who are a rung below Sky at World Tour level.
NetApp needed a wild card invitation just to stand on the startline at the Headrow in Leeds as one 22 teams in the Tour de France peloton.
Their lack of experience and depth, though, was always going to give Thwaites a better chance than his county colleagues Swift and Edmondson of contesting the Tour, and so it is proving.
After an impressive campaign in the one-day classics in the Spring, Thwaites – who regularly rides the roads from Leeds through Ilkley and beyond that make up the first day of this year’s Tour – has been given more responsibility as a domestique in longer stage races.
NetApp’s team principal Ralph Denk said: “We’re aiming for a stage win and a Top-15 position in the GC.
“Our goals are realistic and the entire team is already feeling self-confident because of that.
“Selecting nine riders is not easy for us because at the moment we have a very broad spectrum on the team.
“Leopold Konig is the team’s leader and his condition will determine how our Tour squad looks like. If he’s in top shape, then he’ll be given the full support of the team.
“On the other hand, if his preparation is further compromised by his knee problems, we’ll adjust our tactical plans.
“And that will have an impact on the squad. But the last couple of weeks have shown that the team can convert even that into results.”