With Mark Renshaw set to miss the start of the season with a virus, his Columbia-HTC team will need to alter Mark Cavendish’s lead-out train for the first part of the 2010 season. On Tuesday it was confirmed that Renshaw was suffering with the Epstein-Barr virus and would not be able to train until mid-January, and that he wouldn’t commence racing until May, thus ruling him out of the Tour Down Under and the Spring Classics.
The Classics are a major goal for Cavendish who won Milano-Sanremo in thrilling fashion in 2009. However, despite his electrifying sprint win against Heinrich Haussler, it was a win which he owed greatly to the work of his teammates. In his recent biography Boy Racer he paid tribute to their work when he said: “they aren't just any old teammates, they're special athletes, special individuals with whom I have a special bond and without whom I'd never win a race.”
However, with Renshaw ruled out, Cavendish will need to almost totally restructure his team. Last year’s Milano-Sanremo line-up included George Hincapie, Michael Barry, Edvald Boasson Hagen, and Thomas Lövkvist, all of whom have left the team, while Bernard Eisel and Maxime Monfort remain for the 2010 season.
Columbia have prided themselves on building their team around sprint success. Despite losing a number of faces they have strengthened with the likes of Lars Bak, Hayden Roulston, and Matt Goss signing, and it’s the Australian who could step in and fill the void left by Renshaw’s illness.
“Obviously for Mark Cavendish at Milano-Sanremo it’s going to be a difficult race, but we'll have Gossy there,” Alan Peiper told Cyclingnews.
“So if he can climb well he could come into that. It will take some time for adjustment but he’s given us a bit of a back stop. We’ve got the best sprinter and the second best sprinter in the peloton, but we really try to build a lead-out train and interchange ability so even though we struck gold with getting Renshaw to the team, we’ve got Matt Goss. In him we have a kid who knows exactly where his teammates need to be and what they need to do. We’re expecting that from him,” said Peiper.
Introducing Goss to the team’s lead-out will start at the Tour Down Under where Eisel will be the final rider before Goss leads out Greipel.
“The third to last man at the Tour Down Under will be Bernie Eisel. He’s a good sprinter himself but has taken on a new role in the last few years. I think we can have him in there so it will be Eisel, Goss and then Greipel.”
As for Renshaw, the prognosis looks a lot better than earlier reports. The 27-year-old will start training in mid-January and build-up slowly but it’s testament to an incredible successful 2009 that he’s being regarded so highly.
“The crux of the virus has passed but if you start too early your body never recuperates and you can never get back to the level that you should be and there could be a fall back that means you have to start training again. That’s why were getting blood tests done weekly so they can see the markers.”