Mark Cavendish's lead-out man Mark Renshaw was on the start line of Scheldeprijs looking to boost his form before his two biggest races for the season: the Amgen Tour of California and the Tour de France.
Renshaw was diagnosed with the Epstein-Barr virus in December of last year and despite already banking five weeks of training, was forced to rest until mid-January. Since then, he has worked on his form, building up what he called a "solid month" of training. He has raced in Hel van het Mergelland and Rund um Köln already this month.
"I feel good, but I don't know how I'll feel in a few hours," he said on the start line today. "I only lasted an hour in Mergelland, so we'll see but hopefully I can help the team as I feel good."
Renshaw's lay off was a blow to HTC-Columbia's season, although the team has still recorded a dozen wins so far. His return has almost paralleled Mark Cavendish's return to fitness after a winter ruined by teeth problems and resulting lack of training.
"The main objective is to still be his lead-out man," he said. "It's going to be good racing with him and sharing some laughs. I've talked to him a lot and been in contact, but it's good to pin a number on and race.
"I'm so glad to be back, it's been a long time coming, but I think I'm at a good enough level where I can be competitive."
Renshaw missed the Tour Down Under, his home race that's always been close to his heart, especially after wining a stage in 2008. "I missed the initial start to the season and races like the Tour Down Under, but obviously I got over the initial disappointment, and now I can move the objectives closer like the Tour de France and California."
Renshaw will lead-out Cavendish in the Amgen Tour of California, where the sprinter has already said he aims to win the first stage and claim the first leader's jersey. Before that, he'll join Cavendish at the Tour of Romandie (April 27-May 2). The pair has yet to race together this season.