As the lead-out rider for Mark Cavendish, Australian Mark Renshaw was as intrigued as anyone about young Colombian sprinter Fernando Gaviria who beat the Manxman twice at Tour de San Luis in Argentina.
Renshaw (Etixx-QuickStep) is racing the Tour Down Under but will re-unite with Cavendish at the Tour of Dubai on February 4-7. In Australia Renshaw has been riding as the lead-out man for Belgian Gianni Meersman. He said he has not seen replays of the sprints where Cavendish was beaten but he forecasts big things for Gaviria based on his wins in stage one and three of the Tour de San Luis.
Asked what he knows of the 20-year-old former junior world track champion whose only other international win before his double over Cavendish was in last year's Pan-American road race, Renshaw said: "I don't know anything. I don't think anybody knows anything about him which is interesting. He seems fast, that's for sure."
Cavendish sportingly accepted defeat and praised Gaviria but hopes to soon take his first win of 2015.
Pressed on how he feels Cavendish would have felt about the two losses, Renshaw smiled. "He won't be happy … for sure. I haven't seen the finishes so I can't tell you much about them. [But] He has beaten him twice now, so obviously he is fast and he can ride good position. Pretty soon he will be snapped up by a pro team."
For now, Renshaw is keen to resume helping Cavendish in the season to come.
"I'm looking forward to start racing with him," he said. "Basically [from Tour Dubai] I will spend the rest of the year with him. Hopefully [it will be] a better year … and a few less crashes [for Cavendish]."
A disrupted pre-season
Renshaw, who has won two stages of the Tour Down Under (in 2007 and 2008 with Credit Agricole), is happy with his current form after a disrupted off and pre-season.
"I was going really well in November," he said. "Then December was a bit of a disaster for me. I'm still finding my legs a little bit. I travelled back to Europe for training camp and then back to Australia … I just never got into a groove so the form is a little lower than normal. But I am surprised I am on a pretty good level here."
Renshaw said he has enjoyed trying to help Meersman at the Tour Down Under and might try his hand in Sunday's finale in Adelaide - a 91 km downtown circuit race. Meersman has not delivered as hoped. He was sixth in last Sunday's Peoples' Choice criterium, and sixth again in stage one of the Tour Down Under. On stage four, Meersman escaped the crash near the finish to place eighth.
"He is a missing a little bit, compared to what he wanted to be here," Renshaw said. "(For Sunday) we will have a chat and I might throw my hat into the ring. It's always a stage I like so we will see how it goes."
At least Sunday's finish should be a lot cleaner than Friday's stage four finish to Mount Barker that was marred by a mass high speed pile up sight of the finish. Renshaw was in the crash, but averted serious injury because he fell on another rider.
"I swung off with about 250 to go, 300m maybe; and once Meersman went past I knew it wasn't going to end well," he said. "There were just too many guys going for that limited space. I was doing 83km/h. At that speed there is no chance of saving anything."
Renshaw has seen a number of video replays of the crash – from various angles.
"It's always bad to watch it the first time, but then it's ok," he said. "It's good to analyse it sometimes, to see if you could have got out of trouble. "[But] anyone who didn't go down is just lucky. I went down but I landed on top of a Katusha rider. I was lucky."
Rupert Guinness is a sports writer for The Sydney Morning Herald.