Mark Renshaw has been a professional for over ten years at the top of the sport with some of the best teams in the business. The Australian has also been on his fair share of training and team camps since turning professional in 2004 with FDJ. Of those camps, the last two have been with Dimension Data in Cape Town, South Africa where the team via the Qhubeka charity donate bicycles to local school children.
"We spent an afternoon in a rural school handing over 260 bikes to kids which is going to completely change their and their families' lives. There are some kids who hadn’t been over the hill just beside the town. In Australia, it’s very different to over there," Renshaw told Cyclingnews of his experience at the team camp.
The team camp closed out a long season for Renshaw that started on January 10 with the Australian national championships and concluded on October 23 with the Abu Dhabi Tour, helping teammate Mark Cavendish to the stage win. In Renshaw's first season with the South African WorldTour team, he helped his teammates to numerous wins in his role as a lead-out man but for the 34-year-old it wasn't a vintage year as he explained.
"It wasn’t the best year I had. We were successful in the Tour de France, which was big. I fell ill a couple of times which was a bit disappointing, especially at crucial moments like the Tour de France," Renshaw said of the race where Cavendish won four stages and Steve Cummings added a fifth to ensure a highly successful race. "It is always nice to get some results even though it is not an objective for me to win races. The start of the year with Tour Down Under and then RideLondon and in the mix in Hamburg, where I made a little mistake in the final is a shame, but I was happy to be in the mix for those few races."
In a change from previous years, Renshaw will be spending time on the track this off-season as he partners up with compatriot and sprint rival Caleb Ewan of Orica-BikeExchange for the national madison titles. Renshaw is a former national madison champion who has also won gold medals from the Track Worlds and Commonwealth Games in the team pursuit, while Ewan is a junior world champion in the velodrome. The December championships will be the first return to the track for both riders in several years.
"It is something we spoke about in training throughout the year," he said of the idea to team up and return to the track. "Watching the Olympics and all the track throughout the year we got a little but motivated and see it as a good opportunity to do something different in the off-season and it is something I really love. It will be pretty exciting to be back on the track.
"We saw how much the track definitely helped him [Cavendish] so I would be happy to give it a shot and see it can maybe give me a few extra percent with some track work in the pre-season," he added of his teammate who won silver in the omnium at the Olympic Games and the madison world title with Bradley Wiggins in March.
Renshaw's return to the track will be a limited affair for now as he won't be following in the footsteps of Cavendish by racing, and winning, the Gent Six-Day anytime soon.
"Not as long as I am a pro on the road. Maybe when I retire I’ll go and try some of those," he said.
2017 focus and rider safety
Next season, Renshaw and Dimension Data are planning to "replicate this year" in terms of success but will also look to improve in the classics. Renshaw's race programme is likely to mirror that of Cavendish with the Tour Down Under his only confirmed race of the early-season. One race that is also on Renshaw's programme is the Tour de France which will see a major change for 2017 with ASO, RCS and Flanders Classics announcing a reduction in team size from nine to eight for their races.
While Renshaw "would have done other things before reducing team sizes", he doesn't see the change having a negative affect on Cavendish's chances to add to his 30 career Tour stage wins.
"I don’t see it really affecting us too much or probably as much as it would for other teams," he said. "Obviously our leader is Cavendish and we are not going to sacrifice any of the guys who are going to help him so unfortunately, it will be somebody else who will miss the spot, not the crucial lead-out guys and your domestiques. We will lose someone important, but it is more aimed at the bigger teams who have the two-pronged attack with a sprinter and a GC rider. I think it will generally make all teams weaker which is a shame.
Instead of reducing team size, Renshaw explained several of the changes he would have first made to improve the standard of safety for the peloton.
"I think rider safety is a big thing. It is always a hot topic and generally the organisers of races could look at a few different things to make the racing safer. Reducing stage length, transfers... Everything around the race that is quite fatiguing.
"It is a pretty quick fix to straight away take 21, or whatever it is, riders out of the bunch. It will reduce the size and it will make it safer with less riders but long term I don’t know if it is the best way about it."