Tour de France: Scott Thwaites ready to tackle Pyrenees as Chris Froome is forced on defensive

THE moments of the Tour de France that Scott Thwaites has been waiting for are just around the corner.

Scott Thwaites ahead of the second week of the Tour de France (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)

The Yorkshireman is making his Tour debut this year after being selected in Team Dimension Data’s squad.

And asked what he was most looking forward to, the 27-year-old was quick to point to the Pyrenees and the Alps – and a chance to climb the likes of the Mur de Peguere, the Galibier and the Izoard.

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The race will veer towards the Pyrenees later this week after a rest day, with the Alps on the agenda in the third week.

Britain's Chris Froome, wearing the overall leaders yellow jersey, on the podium after the ninth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 181.5 kilometers (112.8 miles) with start in Nantua and finish in Chambery, France, Sunday, July 9, 2017. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

“Everything is on such a massive scale,” said Thwaites, as he got his head around the world’s biggest cycling race – which is being led by three-time winner Chris Froome of Team Sky with nine stages down.

“The fans have been great. I’m excited to get down to the Pyrenees and the Alps and experiencing what the Tour is really about, going over those famous climbs.”

Thwaites made his Grand Tour debut last season when he rode the Vuelta a Espana for Bora-Argon18. But having narrowly missed their Tour de France squad he moved to Dimension Data in the winter hoping to get his chance, and has duly been rewarded.

His debut Tour got off to an inauspicious start when he crashed on the opening time trial in Dusseldorf but he escaped with a few bumps and bruises.

Britain's Chris Froome, wearing the overall leaders yellow jersey, on the podium after the ninth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 181.5 kilometers (112.8 miles) with start in Nantua and finish in Chambery, France, Sunday, July 9, 2017. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

“It wasn’t ideal,” he said with a laugh. “I think it was just my mistake. I went a bit too fast into the corner. Those things happen but luckily I came away with just a few cuts.

“It wasn’t the way I would have liked to have started, you try to stay on your bike as much as possible, but there was no harm done.”

Thwaites was picked primarily to be part of Cavendish’s lead-out train in the sprints, only to see the Manxman crash out on stage four. He can still serve a similar role for Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen but may get other opportunities as the race goes on.

“I don’t think you can change the focus, just because the competition of our team has changed,” said Dimension Data sports director Roger Hammond after Cavendish’s exit.

“We’re here to win bike races and we have to look at the best chance to do that. Will it free up Scott to do other things later on? He was free to do that anyway.

“He’s a dedicated, versatile rider. He’s not the last lead-out man, not the guy who’s got Edvald or Cav on his wheel at the end but we needed someone who can cross-over from being that lead-out guy but can also get over the climbs easily.

“We saw that in him not just in the weeks before the Tour but from the moment we signed him into the team. We signed him for a reason and he’s at the Tour for that reason.”

Race leader Chris Froome, meanwhile, has rejected suggestions he deliberately rode into Fabio Aru after the Italian attacked him when he suffered a mechanical problem during Sunday’s hectic ninth stage.

Aru launched an attack on the Mont du Chat, just as Froome was signalling his team car for a bike change. Attacking the race leader at such a moment goes firmly against cycling protocol, and after Froome caught back up, the three-time Tour winner appeared to ride into Aru as they went around a corner.

“Once I got back to the group I think the very next hairpin we went round I lost my balance a little bit and swerved to the right,” Froome said.

“Aru happened to be on my right and he had to swerve as well. That was a genuine mistake and I I apologised straight away.”