Mark Renshaw (Dimension Data) says that getting his 2019 season under way at the Classics has been a difficult task, but that he's happy to be racing again and is looking forward to clocking up the miles.
Renshaw missed the start of the season after he broke his pelvis when he was hit by a car during training in December. The delay, combined with the reduced programme that his team is riding this season, meant that there were fewer options for his comeback. In the end, he has been thrown into the deep end in Belgium, with the Classics well under way.
Wednesday's Scheldeprijs was just his second race day of the year, and it just happens to be one of the most chaotic races on the Belgian calendar.
"My first race, the Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne, was even worse," Renshaw told Cyclingnews. "It was a big shock because most guys start at the Tour Down Under and roll around there a bit, and have a chat and a laugh. There's none of that here.
"It's been difficult to come back into the programme because this year we're doing a bit of a reduced WorldTour-only programme. I kind of missed Tirreno-Adriatico and then it was hard to come back in. It's been hard to come back to racing, especially as the season is in full swing here with the Classics. I'm excited to be back, and, hopefully, I'll get better with more races."
Renshaw's first outing at De Panne ended with 116th place, more than five minutes behind winner Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma), while at Scheldeprijs on Wednesday, he'd made some improvement, finishing 86th, 1:50 down on race winner Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck-QuickStep).
Renshaw said that the long lay-off had allowed him to put a serious amount of work into his training, but there is only so much you can get from training, and he needs the race miles, too.
"I trained really well. It was the best I've ever trained, and that's because I had such a long period to do it and commit," he explained. "Normally, you're always preparing and recovering. The training was really good, but now I need the racing to get a bit 'race hard'."
Scheldeprijs will be Renshaw's final race in Belgium for a little while, with the Tour of Turkey on his calendar this weekend. A return to the Giro d'Italia – which would be his first appearance there since 2012 – is also on the cards for Renshaw. But there is also the small matter of the birth of his third child in the very near future, which may change his programme.
"I hope to do the Tour of Turkey, but we're waiting for the birth of our third child, so hopefully that doesn't cause any problems," he said. "Then, after Turkey, there's either the Tour de Yorkshire or the Tour de Romandie, with the Giro after that, but we don't know which I'll do yet."