With his move from Etixx-Quick Step to MTN-Qhubeka alongside Mark Cavendish sorted and four weeks "completely off the bike", Mark Renshaw is back in the saddle training for the season ahead in which is he aiming to make the Australian team for the Doha World Championships for the first time.
The Australian leadout man, who turned 33 at the end of last month, spent the last two seasons alongside Cavendish with Quick Step after a two-year trial of pursuing his own personal ambitions with the Rabobank, come Belkin team. The duo had been part of the successful HTC-Highroad team prior were both were considered the best in the business.
"Totally different circumstances," Renshaw told Cyclingnews of the comparison between his move to Quick Step and the move to MTN-Qhubeka with Cavendish.
"Coming across from Belkin to Omega Pharma-Quick Step at that stage was a big move back to working for Cav. It was a bit of a turning point because I pretty much decided from that point on I'd work for him in the races. If we compare it with this signing, it was just more of an extension in making the change in teams and atmosphere and maybe a change in mentally. It's two different transfers."
At Quick Step, the Belgian team struggled to find the best combination of riders for Cavendish's leadouts, compounded by the squad's multiple goals at any given time. Italian's Alessandro Petacchi and Fabio Sabatini were both trialled with varying level of success before Renshaw was back to best this year and the Mark's fruitful working relationship resumed. With several former teammates on the books at MTN-Qhubeka, Cyclingnews asked Renshaw how long it thought it would be before finding the combination the riders would be happy with.
"I have no idea, I really don't know how long that's doing to take. It could take six months, it could take six races," he responded. "Once I get over to the training camp at the end of this month we'll have a lot to talk about and a lot to plan for next year. It's been well publicised that there won't be much of a dedicated lead out train out as such. We know that will happen and that will play a part in how that happens.
"It's good just for the other teams because the other teams realise he won't have a dedicated team that rides like Etixx," Renshaw added of how he expects Cavendish's train to work next season. "Basically since they've signed Kittel not much will change there. They'll continue to do most of the work because he's a strong sprinter and they have a strong team and they will look to continue that they were doing this year with Cav."
Since claiming four Tour de France stage wins in 2013, a rivalry has development between the 27-year-old German and 30-year-old Manx Missile. With Cavendish leaving Etixx and Kittel ending his Giant-Alpecin contract early to change teams, just who got the better deal?
"I think it's pretty good for us," Renshaw said. "Its been documented that Rolf Aldag is moving to the team with us and he's a bit of an unsung hero at Etixx. He basically juggled everything within the team which was a major coup that he comes along with us to Dimension Data. Knowing that Etixx loses him and a few other guys likes Kwiatkowski, Golas, myself, Cavendish, Rigoberto… a lot of guys have left that team so there will be a big change there and for us, it's a big scoop making sure that Rolf came with us."
Uncertain just what his schedule looks like for 2016 besides starting with the Tour Down Under, Renshaw and the team will get together in Cape Town later this month where plans will be made to ensure Cavendish is top dog in the sprints.
"At this stage Kittel, Andre Greipel and Cavendish are the three biggest names in spiriting," Renshaw said of whom he sees as the fast men in the peloton. "There are a lot of guys on that level, I don't want to knock them off, but they are the top three sprinters. The couple of races I did this year with [Fernando] Gaviria showed that he has a lot of talent so we'll watch him but if Etixx are smart they'll also give him a nice and easy race program to development him and not put him straight into WorldTour and get kicked to the gutter every second race. It will be interesting to see what they'll do with his development."
Renshaw was contentiously left off the Australian team for the last sprint friendly Worlds in 2011, won by Cavendish, and with his past success in Qatar and the flat parcours of the Doha Circuit in his favour, it will be the one race of the year he won't be wanting to deliver his teammate to victory in.
"For me its just natural to focus on getting a start at the World Championships and I know the racing well there because I’ve done a lot of it and that will play a big part of it I think," he said, adding the Olympics course in Rio as one for the "Tour de France style riders. I'd love to get a ride [at Worlds] and the Olympics are a much too hard a course on the road. I don't think any sprinters will go there."
With the Worlds taking place in late October though, managing race days and fatigue across the season will go a long way to securing the rainbow jersey.
"It's a big year with Olympics and a flat world title so I'll make sure that I have two decent rest periods in the year," he said how to manage a ten month season. "One after the classics like Milan San Remo and Gent Wevelgem, to rebuild for the Tour de France. Then there is always a good break after the Tour to regain your strength from that race, then it will one last push for the World Championships."
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