- Mark Renshaw
July 17, 2012, 0:00 BST,
July 17, 2012, 0:59 BST
Why you never want to leave the grand boucle
Coming into the Tour de France you expect that you're going to crash once or twice - just because it's a numbers game but this year in terms of crashes, I've never seen anything like it.
That was the fifth time I've ridden the Tour and the bunch was extremely nervous. I can't put on a finger on the reason or reasons why we have seen so many crashes but the moment someone would touch the brakes at the front of the bunch, it would ricochet back through and at the end, everyone would be locking up their brakes and crashing.
I said a while back that maybe a few less teams need to be eligible for the Tour and given what's occurred over the last two weeks, it's only cemented that thought for me.
I had four decent crashes, on top of the pile-ups which don't really hurt. One day, I had three in a row and the day before that I'd been involved in the big pile up during the run into the sprint with Cav, Farrar and some other top sprinters.
In the end, I'd ridden four or five days with just one leg really working so I was able to duck and weave and stay out of trouble until I hit the mountains. The first day we hit the mountains, I was in big trouble so I knew whatever was ahead was going to be worse because the next day was starting uphill. My body just never had the chance to recover. You cannot hide for too long in the Tour.
So, there was not much positive for me to take out of this Tour de France. Trust me; you do try to look for any upside. The first sprint day I didn't get a chance to be in the mix because the first few days are generally pretty hard to judge, and I got it wrong.
The Tour is without doubt the hardest race to abandon because it's not something that you want to do. The first few days you try to avoid it but given the amount of attention that is on it, especially in this part of the world, it's impossible to escape it.
I need some more tests just to be doubly sure there's nothing major wrong and I'm hoping everything will be okay. I really think it comes down to the need for a week's rest for all the swelling to go down and recover properly.
While it's hard to find any positives out of my own race, it was great to see Luis León Sánchez get the win in Sunday. It has been a slow start to the Tour for Rabobank so we're pretty lucky that Sánchez is the quality rider that he is. He saved the Tour this year; you can count on him to win a stage each year. He's a great guy and I think the team was really proud to have him there.
All going well, I'll be back for the Eneco Tour, Vattenfall Cyclassics, GP Plouay and a couple other races at the end of the year. Paris-Bruxelles is a good objective as well. I'm not focussed on the Worlds; the course is not to my strengths. Now I just need to try and save my season! There's definitely pressure within the team because Rabobank just hasn't had the season that was expected. There wasn't a huge focus on what I could do in the Tour, but that may change now with what I have coming up.
I am looking forward to getting back on the bike soon and finishing off the season with some wins!
- Mark Renshaw
June 26, 2012, 2:15 BST,
June 26, 2012, 3:14 BST
Mark on his final preparations for the Tour de France
It's Tour time!
With less than a week until the 2012 Tour de France begins in Liege, it's all about staying focussed. I'm still spending time at altitude and I will head to Belgium on Wednesday night. The two days before the Grand Depart should just be some recon of the prologue and the first stage.
Because it is the biggest race of the year, now is about trying to switch on 100 per cent. All the little one percenters – diet, gym, stretching and massage – in the two weeks leading up to the Grand Depart is the most important thing I'll do all season. It's not something I can do all year; you have to pick and choose when that time is. If there's any extra weight to trim, and as a sprinter you can't really race super-light all year, it's time to focus on doing that. Everyone gets tired as the weeks go on so the fresher you are every day – whether it's because you're a little bit lighter – it can make a little bit of a difference.
If there's one thing that I really enjoy about the Tour is that it's the best organised race of the lot. The transfers are never long. There's a tradition that's followed, you do the Alps or the Pyrenees, you can rely on certain sprint and time trial stages – the layout of the Tour is the best in the world and for that reason, it will always be that much bigger than the Vuelta or the Giro, along with being the most popular race.
The one thing I don't look forward to is knowing that you're racing 197 other cyclists that are in the best form that they possibly can be. Everybody wants to do something so it becomes so hard to get a result. It's another reason why it's the best race in the world.
I managed two seconds and a third in my last race before the Tour, Ster ZLM Toer and it was a really good boost for my confidence. There were only a few guys missing from the race: Petacchi, Farrar and Goss so I'm definitely capable of running podiums, if not winning stages once we roll around to the Tour. I just need to keep improving and stay healthy.
This will be the second year where we have the intermediate sprint and I can assure you, we utilised a lot of energy there in 2011 so it will be interesting to see who really targets them for the green jersey. I've already seen that Greipel said that he won't, along with a few others. I think it's really going to come down to who shows their cards early. I think Sagan will and you'll see two or three teams with lead outs and then the rest will freestyle in and limit their loses each day. It's such a hard competition to win.
If I had to pick a top three for the points classification, I'd go with Sagan, Cavendish and Griepel. There's no way I'd try and predict their order though! Sagan will be scoring points in the intermediate sprints on the days that are quite hard, after climbs and so on, but I think it's going to be quite hard for him to be in the mix on the pure sprint stages.
As for my own ambitions, to be honest I'm not too sure how I'll approach it. Each day where there's a sprint I'll give it 100 per cent to try and win and then it's about seeing how the legs have recovered in order to do the intermediate sprints. It could be an easier way to pick up some points compared to the finish. After the first week, I'll assess the situation.
Rabobank has selected a really strong climbing team so I'm going to be largely on my own. I may get some help from Maarten Tjallingii and Maarten Wijnants up until about three or four kilometres to go – from there I'll be fending for myself. It's going to be tough but on the other side of the coin I now know what I have to do.
- Mark Renshaw
June 14, 2012, 7:05 BST,
June 14, 2012, 8:06 BST
Mark on learning from the Giro
My next race starts on Thursday, Ster ZLM Toer and I'm hoping to be in the mix. I've been doing a lot of work on my sprinting and climbing lately. There's always a couple of hard stages there for a Gilbert style rider but I am hoping for a couple of sprint chances also.
I won't be doing a lot else in the lead up to the Tour, and I've had a few stints up at altitude along with plenty of training behind the scooter. Off the back of the Giro and then with this week's race I think my preparation for the Tour will be quite solid.
I took a lot from the Giro. Apart from the Tour of Turkey it was the first race where I got some consecutive sprints which allowed me to analyse how I was going and then try and change things the next day. If there was a recurring theme, it was that I was always two or three positions too far back – that really showed that positioning is everything.
It looks like Rabobank will be taking a team for the Tour de France based on supporting Robert Gesink, Bauke Mollema and Steven Kruijswijk – throw Luis Leon Sanchez in the mix, along with a few guys to work and then hopefully I'll get a chance to sprint. The team is yet to be confirmed but I'm working towards that goal of being at the start in Liege.
It will make it harder being on my own but on the other hand it is a lot easier – I know what I have to do. There will be less pressure on me to win with the team heading to the Tour with big objectives.
Having a look at where some of the other sprinters are at, Greipel especially looks like he is going really well and is winning plenty of races. Lotto Belisol have got their lead out dialled in. Petacchi is also looking good. There are rumours that Cav won't ride the Tour but I think he'll be there. His support will be limited – probably Edvald Boasson Hagen, and Bernhard Eisel and that's about all. In saying that, it's probably all he needs. If there's a catch, it will be that he won't be used to riding so far back in the bunch, in the Highroad days the team was always patrolling the front, especially on the sprint stages. There is a risk with that of course, the further back you are the more chance of something going wrong. A lot of the work is going to be lumped on teams like Argos Shimano, Orica-Greenedge and Lotto Belisol to bring back any breakaways, because I can't see Sky putting anyone on the front on a sprint stage.
As for the Tour's GC, on paper, it's certainly looking like a two-man battle. We all know that anything can happen but if Cadel Evans and Brad Wiggins can hold themselves upright, it will definitely be those two fighting for victory.
- Mark Renshaw
May 09, 2012, 0:11 BST,
May 09, 2012, 8:10 BST
Mark on the changing sprint game, Ferrari and the TTT
It's been an interesting Giro so far. We may have been in Denmark but realistically, the finishes were what you come to expect from the Giro, particularly yesterday with the circuit at the end of the stage – lots of corners and definitely hectic.
Starting with the prologue, personally I took it a little bit easy just to save my legs for the first two road stages. It was decided that for stage 2 the team would pull for Theo. We tried to set the sprint up for him but unfortunately, he had William Bonnet come underneath and force him wide therefore underlapping my wheel and crashing. I thought we may have been going too fast for the corner so there wasn't much I could do other then break slightly. I was still happy to finish sixth. I had 50 metres to change my mindset and come up with a plan. In the end I decided to wait, then try and follow – at one point I had a gap on the right and I should have gone – so I paid the price and got stuck in the wheels. I was happy to still finish in the top 10 after changing my mindset within two seconds of Theo's crash.
The stage 3 wash-up has had its fair share of headlines but I think the UCI really need to look at sprinting. Ferrari's move was kamikaze and very bad on his behalf. The penalties need to be stricter. The relegation wasn't enough. I got made an example of a few years ago in the Tour de France. This was a real chance for the UCI to take a stand against those who deviate off their sprinting line. This year we've got more teams with more sprinters who are able to win. To have guys riding like that is just not acceptable.
What we saw in Denmark was a lot of the GC teams trying to stay in front because of the wind and the corners. While things generally improve over the final three kilometres of a stage like we had on Monday, we still have a lot of teams and a lot of riders taking risks. Everyone needs to concentrate on sprinting straight because at the moment, we just have too many kamikazes.
The one thing that has become increasingly obvious given the calibre of sprinters that we have at this first grand tour of the year, is that what Highroad managed to achieve in regards to their leadout is going to be seriously hard to replicate.
In 2011, we had the leadout down pat. Everybody knew their position and their role. Have a look at the results from stage 2 on Sunday and you have Cavendish, Goss and I all in the top six – that was the leadout for the Tour de France last year. It's obvious that what we had last year was exceptional. Since Highroad fell apart, there seems to be a lot less respect for each team during the leadout. On Monday we saw Sky try and take control and yet still there were riders coming underneath on the corners. When Highroad was in action, other teams would base their sprint on riding off the back of us and their tactic was to wait until the last minute. This year it's a case of going to the front and if it's detrimental to the team doing the lead out, then it doesn't seem to matter.
Heading into the team time trial on Wednesday, Rabobank has a strong team. If we finish in the top six, then we'll be pretty happy. I'm expecting Sky, Garmin and BMC to be the strongest.
There is another sprint stage for me coming up on Thursday and I'm in good shape. We're down in Italy now so the real Giro starts. We will have to see what the plan is. Theo fell quite hard and we've had other riders crash. One thing is for sure; in the next two sprint stages I'll have one chance for a result. Rabobank want to press ahead with both sprinters, they don't want to pick one. We just need to be honest with each other and go for the best rider on the day and we'll see how it pans out. On Monday I had Brown help me until two kilometres to go. It's hard when we can't get three or four guys together but hopefully we can after tomorrow.
We have made a big improvement at Rabobank the last few months with the sprint team. We now need to get it right and start delivering the results.
I hope the next week at the Giro is kind to us.
- Mark Renshaw
May 02, 2012, 23:50 BST,
May 03, 2012, 0:50 BST
Hitting his stride in Turkey, Mark believes Rabobank is adapting
The Tour of Turkey was a last-minute change to the program but it worked out quite well. Originally I had planned to ride Romandie but there were no stages for the sprinters. Turkey was a really good preparation race for the Giro – eight days of reasonably flat roads, good hotels and nice weather. To win a stage there, and a hard stage at that, was a big boost to the confidence.
It was an honour to win on ANZAC Day and nice to win against Matt Goss because we've seen he is one of the most dominant sprinters on a hard stage like that where there's a lot of climbing – he's a specialist. As for the win itself, I was confident but I didn't want to celebrate until I'd been given the green light. I felt I had got the throw a tenth of a second before he did; often it comes down to the rider who can reach just that little bit extra. Although, I will admit it did cross my mind that he had just got his handlebars in front of me so I guess a bit of my old track experience paid off.
To win a stage and then finish third, fourth and fifth – along with dropping off Theo for his two wins has me feeling confident. It shows that I'm competitive and recovering well each day. All important signs when it comes to the Giro.
It has been a tough road to get to that all-important first win but in no way am I wavering from my plan to be Rabobank's top sprinter. Theo's won twice in Turkey and a good ride in Schelderprijs but I think when you come to a race like to the Giro, it's another level.
A few people have asked me about the comments made by Jan Boven in regards to me being the best option to lead out Theo. I'm going to the Giro to win stages. Theo may get a lead out early in the Giro but I believe I have the form and I'm a sprinter that's capable of winning Grand Tour stages. The team has confidence in me and I've said all along that I didn't come over to Rabobank to be a lead out man, I haven't done the work to be a lead out man. My training's changed and it's just unfortunate that leading out is something that does come quite easy to me – if only winning stages was as easy. I just need Mark Renshaw to lead me out. I'm always looking for the next one.
I believe that I have the full support of the team. If you look at my results, I've been consistent. Obviously there is something missing because I'm not winning consistently but I think it's just a matter of the team pulling together. It's been said that Rabobank was a team without a lead out and they were lucky to have Oscar Freire who could go it alone. The current squad has had to learn a lot and it's been difficult but everyone's starting to adapt to it now.
Graeme Brown has really stepped up this season – mentally and physically – as he moves towards being a true lead out rider and I'm trying to teach him everything that I can. He's taken it really well and he's improved each race. He's definitely got the power, but I'm seeing improvement in the way he positions himself and how he uses his power. Brownie has come into the Giro at the last minute and he's got good form so I think he's going to be essential to our efforts.
No one sprinter has been able to dominate across the months of the season so far, it's been about riders targeting specific races. I'm hoping that with my win in Turkey and coming into the Giro, my time is now.
In the first two weeks we'll have a lot of opportunities and that's where my priorities will lie. There is another good stage for me in the third week, and I am going to try and go there but there are still bigger objectives ahead in July, and I don't want to compromise my form. You never know how the Giro will pan out.
Of course, there is a showdown with another of my old teammates, Mark Cavendish on the cards and it's always great to race against him. I'm curious to see how he will be going. He's just had a little daughter and there's a lot going on at home, but I know him and I know that he'll turn up with the ambition to win five stages because that's how Cav works. As I've said all along, he's beatable. It wouldn't surprise me if he is beaten in the Giro. It's not the most important race for him but I think he'll still get a few wins under his belt.
- Mark Renshaw
February 23, 2012, 0:27 GMT,
February 23, 2012, 0:28 GMT
Warming up for Paris-Nice and Milan-San Remo
I now have two stage races under my belt now so it's time for another blog – I'm also back in Europe. It's still a bit fresh over here but it's about 10 degrees warmer than when they had the cold snap which is lucky for me.
With the Tour Down Under and Qatar out of the way, I'm personally disappointed not to have walked away with a victory. I was happy with the Tour Down Under but when it comes to Qatar, I think I had better legs than what I showed but for one or two reasons I didn't manage to put anything on the board there – the closest I got was a third on the last stage.
Positioning is the most important factor in a sprint and I just wasn't in the right spot on the days when it counted. I didn't put myself in the best position and with the new team, we're still trying to learn. We all tried 100 per cent but up against Boonen, Cavendish and Farrar it's hard to win when you're not in the best position.
He may have missed Qatar but I think Andre Greipel's still going very well. The way I heard he was riding in Oman (I haven't seen any coverage of it) it sounded like he is still in top form. Marcel Kittel smoked all of them twice proving he will be hard to beat this year. When it comes to Mark Cavendish he may be finding the sprints a little bit chaotic and it might take him a little while before he adapts to that. He has bigger objectives where he will be looking to stamp his authority.
When it comes to myself, I'm definitely on the right track but I haven't managed to get that result. If you look at the sprinters who were in Down Under and Qatar, if I had of got one up against them then it would have been a nice win.
Generally, the whole level of the peloton is much higher because they had such good weather throughout November and December in Europe and I think that's really showed – those guys usually come to Qatar and Oman to train but this time they all turned up for the win. Normally it's the Aussies and the guys who have been in good weather dominating until mid-February.
There was a bit of talk that anyone who was racing Qatar and Oman had a two-week advantage on the guys that were racing the Tour Méditerranéen in France. While the Middle East climate definitely helped, you need to remember that all the team camps in December had good weather.
In regards to the Tour of Hangzhou that will take place after the Tour of Beijing as an additional race on the UCI WorldTour, the peloton starts racing in January, 100 per cent for points and they add this race at the back end of the season, the season now becomes too long. I don't know what happens to those riders who target the start of the year and Tour de France. They'll need to have a month off but as long as the teams understand it shouldn't be a problem.
I'm keen to get up to Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne this weekend. It's been a long time since I've ridden in the cold and in the classics. However, I'm not going to be too ambitious if the weather doesn't suit me! Then it's on to Paris-Nice which I haven't ridden for a few years. It will be a good chance to pick up a stage win there. After Paris-Nice I will have some recovery time and then I will line up in Milan-San Remo. I'm hoping to do well in Milan-Sam Remo, last year we saw Matt Goss use Paris-Nice in the lead-up to San Remo – that obviously worked.
I'm curious to see if I've progressed a little bit in the one-day classics. My role up until this year hasn't allowed me to ride these kinds of races. I'm hoping to perform well and to help the strong classics riders in the team.
It's a pretty important time of year for Rabobank, we would have liked to have picked up a win by now but we've missed out whilst still getting a lot of places. It will be great to get that first win on the board and get the monkey off the back.
- Mark Renshaw
The 29-year-old is embarking on his most pivotal year in his career to date in 2012, having made his mark as the world's best leadout man for Mark Cavendish at HTC-Highroad. Riding for Rabobank, Renshaw is facing a new challenge as he takes on the role as the Dutch team's number one sprinter, ready to be first across the finish line instead of dragging a teammate to the prize.