Mark Renshaw cut his cycling teeth on the pines but there's more to his return to the velodrome this Saturday night at the Clarence Street Cyclery Cup than a trip down memory lane.
Next season bodes as the biggest in the Australian's career, as he goes from arguably the best lead out man in the business to number one sprinter at Rabobank and Renshaw revealed to Cyclingnews that he believes the track is the ideal place to finetune the fast twitch muscle fibres required in a sprint to the finish.
"My role is changing, so I'm looking to get some more speed and acceleration in the legs and try and turn the lead out legs into sprinting legs," he said.
"Basically I sat down with my trainer, we were looking for ways in which we could - not get an advantage - but to get some sprinting form back. I looked at the track; I always loved to ride it but when I came back it was always relaxed, but there's more pressure next year so obviously I'm extremely motivated now. I just saw this as a good opportunity."
Renshaw's return to competition at the Dunc Gray Velodrome will see the 29-year-old up against some of the best up-and-coming talent in Australia with Olympic hopeful Scott Law, Junior World Champions Caleb Ewan and Jackson Law, current Australian Time Trial champion Jackson Leigh-Rathbone all set to start. It will be the first time the 2011 Tour of Qatar winner has raced competitively since 2009 NSW Madison Championships where he paired with Stephen Wooldridge. This Saturday, Renshaw will be in action throughout the entire carnival and Cycling NSW insiders have informed Cyclingnews that Renshaw has looked in ominous form in training – but how does the Rabobank-bound rider rate his own form?
"I was probably looking good, I don't know if I was going good – there's a big difference," Renshaw laughs.
"I'm not expecting to set the world on fire but I think I'll be going good enough to keep up with them. I might have to ride a couple of inches bigger gear than them to slow down the pedal revs but there's some really good juniors coming through. It makes it exciting and that's why I made the decision to ride."
Training camp and getting down to business
Renshaw will really start to lift his intensity in training this week, but time on the track will be a constant theme throughout his off-season. In fact, the Bathurst-native had been looking to ride the Australian Madison Championships mid next month with the only deterrent being the calendar itself.
Following his appearance at the Clarence Street Cyclery Cup, Renshaw will head to the Netherlands for the Rabobank team training camp where the work really begins in finding the right combinations in a bid for sprint success.
"The first thing I do when I go to the team camp next week will be to sit down and see who exactly I'll have to work with and then it will be a matter of trying to form a bit of a bond with these guys straight away," he explained. "I know most of them already. I've got to, not persuade them, but get them to work for me like the guys in HTC did and that's why it worked so well. If they can give themselves to me then hopefully I can return the favour later on."
The change in going from number one lead out man, to king pin in the sprint is 50 per cent physical and 50 per cent mental, according to Renshaw. In his shift to the track in order to find more explosiveness, he believes he's well on the way to embracing the physical changes necessary. Mentally, there's a bigger battle ahead but unsurprisingly Renshaw is backing himself.
"The role I had with Cav and HTC, I don't want to be cocky but I think I was one of the best at it," he said. "I got to a stage where it was easy. Although in saying that, the racing was always hard but the role was quite easy for me. The mental difference next year, there will be the pressure of the team on my shoulders and hopefully decisions being made – I've already done a lot to cope with the mental side of things for next year."
Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for more on Mark Renshaw's move to Rabobank, along with the highs and lows of 2011 in coming weeks...