At 30 years of age and with the final year of his contract with Blanco underway this is the most important year of Mark Renshaw’s career so far.
The sprinter-come-lead-out man stepped out of Mark Cavendish’s shadow in 2012 in a bid to leave his old lead-out duties behind him and concentrate on his own successes in the sprints.
The move has had mixed results: two wins since but a congestion of top-five placings all over Europe. According to Renshaw one reason for the limited number of wins has been the fact he’s continued to provide lead-outs, mainly for Blanco’s other sprinter, Theo Bos.
“When I came to the team I hoped to have more help in the sprints but Theo gets my service services when we race together so I’ve done a lot of leading-out. The big decision is whether I keep going as a sprinter or go back to leading-out,” Renshaw told Cyclingnews.
The biggest question surrounding Renshaw’s future appears to be whether he will seek a home - and he’s certainly not ruling out re-signing with Blanco – that needs either his sprinting or lead-out legs.
“I’ve got options on both sides of the fence. To be honest I wanted to be more successful as a sprinter but I should have known how hard it is to be successful having been on a team with Cavendish, Goss and Greipel. I know exactly what it takes to win and how teams can help.
“The last race I had was Scheldeprijs and I set Theo [Bos] up for that. The team wanted me to ride for him there and he had really good position but he just didn’t have the legs to finish on the podium.”
Renshaw acknowledges that Bos has proved himself as a sprinter, winning the world track championships in the discipline before concentrating on the road. However, he maintains that he can win races that provide more testing terrain, and admits that if he is to stake a claim to more support then he will need to produce better results.
“I always tend to do the bigger races which of course are harder to win because the bigger riders are there but in saying that I get my fair chance and this year I’ve had second and thirds and at the end of the day I need to put the runs on the board. But it’s quite hard when you don’t have three or four riders.
“I’m happy with how my season started at the Tour Down Under and then I went off to Spain and had a few races there. I won in Almeria which was a nice race to win. They don’t expect much from me in the Classics, though, and I can’t really handle the cold like some of the European guys.”
Blanco is currently in the midst of a sponsorship search after Rabobank pulled the plug on their seventeen-year investment last season. The Dutch bank agreed to finance the squad for 2013 but with their naming rights stripped. The current mood in the Blanco camp is positive, and that a new suitor will be recruited before the Tour.
“This is my last year of my current deal with Blanco and we’re in phase now when we have to see what direction the team goes and how finding a sponsor is shaping up. I know they’re talking to a lot of parties but there’s a lot of interest with what I’m going to do for the next few years.”
If Renshaw does decide to dedicate himself to lead-outs away from Blanco the obvious move would see him unite with Mark Cavendish at Omega Pharma-QuickStep. The pair forged a lethal partnership at Highroad and were virtually unstoppable as a double act. Whereas Highroad was a well-drilled unit from rider one to nine, Omega Pharma has lacked cohesion and organisation in this year’s sprints.
“There are a lot of options with a lot of big sprinters looking for good lead-out men. So it’s going to be a hard decision and on the other side of the coin I’d still like to chase my own success.”
Asked if he could consider riding with Cavendish again, Renshaw replied: “We get on quite well. We had a good past and I like his character. He’s a great teammate. You never know what can happen. Last year he kept mentioning to me ‘you’re a good lead-out man’ and a few tongue in cheek comments but we’ll speak I’m sure in the near future.
“Of course staying at Blanco, that’s another good option. Within the team I have a good role and they may want me to be more of a leader.”