As Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) rode towards his eleventh Tour de France stage win, the wheel he followed throughout the final, hectic kilometres belonged to the rider who has now guided him to seven of those victories - Mark Renshaw.
While last year Renshaw tended to follow a teammate in the well-drilled HTC-Columbia train before sprinting and dropping off Cavendish at around 200m to go, the finale into Montargis saw more of a free-for-all, and Renshaw needed to be physical as well as fast.
As Garmin-Trainsitions led it out, first Oscar Freire (Rabobank), then Thor Hushovd (Cervelo TestTeam) appeared to use their shoulders to try and barge Renshaw from the wheel of Tyler Farrar, the last man in the Garmin train.
"There was a lot of shouldering," said Renshaw after the stage, "but that’s the sport. If Freire thinks I’m going to give him the wheel with 2k to go, what am I going to do?
"And if Thor thinks I’m going to give him the wheel with 500m to go, come on - that’s my job [to hold the wheel in front]. Thor knows that - I’ve been on a team with him.
"There’ll be no hard feelings later," added Renshaw. "We’re good mates, we train together every second day in Monaco. He might be a bit angry now, but that’s sport."
Renshaw admitted that the team had had to compromise its efforts in the finale, after committing men to the earlier pursuit of the break. "A few teams didn’t want to help chase, so we had to use Tony Martin early, which was a pity," he said.
"We shouldn’t have had to commit Tony Martin with 6k to go, or Michael Rogers, but as I said yesterday, we’re a few guys short. We had to compromise, to use different tactics. It shows how bad we wanted this win."
For Renshaw, Cavendish’s victory was confirmation of the continued faith in him, and also of his pre-race forecast. "I said he’d win here and he did," said the Australian.
"It’s hard out there, really hard, and everyone is in top shape," he continued. "I’m glad we’ve got one and hopefully the monkey is off [Cavendish’s] back and hopefully he can start winning again. It’s a huge relief."
Thank you for signing up to Cycling News. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.