By Greg Johnson in Adelaide, Australia
Tour Down Under leader Mark Renshaw (Credit Agricole) isn't looking forward to Saturday's penultimate stage of the 2008 Tour Down Under on the gruelling Willunga Hill. The sprinter will be forced to defend his narrow four second general classification lead on the 400 metre high climb, over a distance less than five kilometres, before tackling the quick descent and run into the finish line.
"It's going to be hard, that's for sure, I'm not looking forward to it," said Renshaw, who won his first ProTour stage on Tuesday. "But I'm going to take it by the horns, I think if I can stay within a minute over the top then my team-mates can drag me back up. We're just going to have to bank on that."
With just seven seconds separating the top three riders on general classification, and with very little time bonuses on offer during Sunday's criterium finale, today's stage is set to be an epic battle. Renshaw believes the stage will unfolded similar to Friday's Stage 4, with attacks expected from the very first kilometre.
"I think it's going to be much the same as today," Renshaw predicted after yesterday's stage. "There will be a lot of attacks at the start, everyone's going to want someone in the break. If they can get a better rider in there than it takes pressure off them later in the stage.
"Hopefully we won't let too many guys go away and we will find an ally in Team CSC, Caisse d'Epargne or someone that can ride towards the end with us and try to limit the time gap," he added.
The youngster, who hails from Bathurst in New South Wales, said that his lead wasn't the only card the squad had to play as the race nears its conclusion.
"With Credit Agricole we have the double spear attack with Simon Gerrans and myself," he said. "We'll be looking to either put Simon in the break or have me defend the jersey."
Renshaw says he's excited by the prospect of walking away from the event with the overall orche jersey, but that there's a long way to go before that possibility becomes any more than that.
"Every day it becomes a little bit more possible," he said. "If I can get through tomorrow within striking distance there's no reason why I couldn't come back on Sunday and take a few seconds back, but I'm going to need to be within three to five seconds and that's going to come down to tomorrow."
The Tour Down Under's penultimate stage is a 147 kilometre test from Willunga to Willunga and will commences at 11am local time.