By Greg Johnson in Adelaide, Australia
Australia's Mark Renshaw (Credit Agricole) has re-claimed the Tour Down Under leader's jersey as the gripping battle for general classification continues at the event's half-way mark. The rider, from Bathurst in regional New South Wales, finished second on today's third stage to Victor Harbour, earning a time bonus that put him into the outright lead after losing the jersey on a count back to Rabobank's Graeme Brown after yesterday's stage.
"It's something we were chasing," said Renshaw of his return to the leader's jersey. "It was a bit unfortunate yesterday with the mishap at the finish, I came down to the presentation and it actually wasn't me that had it."
Renshaw had been presented as the leader of the tour after stage two yesterday - interviews had already taken place - but then UCI officials realized that his seventh place was not enough to retain the jersey and Graeme Brown (Rabobank) was in fact the leader of the tour on count back. "It gave my guys a bit of a rest today," he added. "I didn't have to put them on the front today - that was the responsibility of Rabobank - so it gave them a bit of a break before tomorrow."
Renshaw claimed his own piece of history on Monday when he won his first ProTour stage - and also the series' first stage outside of European borders. The rider believed having lost the jersey to Brown on stage two could prove to be a blessing in disguise for his team's general classification hopes. "It's not such a bad thing to lose the jersey, that could be what wins me or Simon [Gerrans] the Tour," he noted. "So it's not a bad thing - it never is."
Renshaw, who has won three stages of the Tour Down Under during his five years as a professional, was disappointed to not add a fourth victory to his resume but was delighted with his form for the season ahead. The stage win went to Allan Davis (UniSa-Australia). "I just missed Allan, so a bit of a disappointment, but it's great to know the form is there," Renshaw added. "I haven't been out since the top three/four all week so definitely getting better."
The 25 year-old rider, who won Tour de Picardie's second stage last year, didn't think the climbs on Friday and Sunday's stages pose a threat to his general classification hopes. "I think I'll be pretty fine with the hill," he said. "As long as not more than five or six riders get away I should be alright."
In addition to his general classification lead, Renshaw also holds the sprint competition leader's jersey heading into tomorrow's fourth stage.