Twelve months ago on Utah Beach, Mark Renshaw and Mark Cavendish were celebrating a Tour de France stage victory against the odds. Cavendish had largely been written off as the dominant bunch sprinter despite his previous 26 stage wins and duly proved his doubters wrong with four stage wins and a day in the yellow jersey in his first Tour with Dimension Data.
With Epstein-Barr Virus wrecking the opening to his 2017 season, Cavendish's preparation for the Tour had been severely hampered, as had the form and condition of Renshaw following a broken ankle in the spring. The winning duo put their injury and illness-affected seasons to one side on the road to Liege as Cavendish stormed to fourth place.
"Fourth, I think that is pretty exceptional from what he's come from," Renshaw told reporters after stage 2, won by Marcel Kittel. "I haven't spoken to him yet. He's on the bus there, we've come here to try our best and victory is the best possibility but that is a good base to work on.
"It gives me confidence because six weeks ago he was laying in bed. I can't speak for him, I can only speak for myself. I have a lot of confidence in him and it's a good base to work on."
Explaining the run into the Liege finish line, Renshaw added the chaotic feel of the finish was a contributing factor in how the sprint was set up. However, he couldn't comment on Cavendish's sprint, explaining he was too far back to have seen how it played out.
"It was quite hard, a little headwind, we had Giant-Shimano [Team Sunweb] there under us for the final four or five Ks so it would have been nice to be in their position just on the fringe. We were a little bit boxed in by them and when the moment came, I am not sure what happened in those final 800 metres because once I did my job, I just wanted to get out of there.
"It is always a risky option. Like I said, I haven't seen the sprint so I can't tell you what happened but the winning position is always the best position. Today might have been from coming from behind but in a couple of days time, I am sure the guy who goes first will win."
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The first road stage of the Tour was a day for the sprinters and an opportunity for one of the fast men to put down an early marker as a man to beat. Riding his ninth Tour, Renshaw explained that the opening stage had a different feel to previous years.
"The weather conditions didn't help much. It was raining, stopping raining. For me, it felt like a pretty difficult stage," he said. "Definitely not the easier of stages we've had on first stages of the Tour de France. We were well represented up there for most of the day and chasing, I was surprised the breakaway lasted so long. It is always that game of cat and mouse in the final. As we come in, we did a pretty good job. We had Cav where he needed to be but as far as the sprint, I can't tell you too much. I was in front doing my job and then I didn't see what happened in the sprint."
While the general classification riders such as yellow jersey wearer Geraint Thomas and Sky teammate Chris Froome, Richie Porte (BMC), Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale) all feel while trying to navigate a roundabout in the wet, Renshaw explained he was the beneficiary of some local knowledge.
"Five-hundred metres before the roundabout, Philippe Gilbert said to us, 'They are are going to crash at this next roundabout', and they went down. It was just one of those roundabouts that everybody knows is slippery in the wet. We gave a nice distance, Eisel, Cav and myself, and watched it all happen," he said.
While stage 3 of the Tour isn't expected to suit the sprinters due to the hard finish in Longwy, stage 4's finish into Vittel is on paper one suited to a bunch sprint where Renshaw and Cavendish will aim to make it stage win number 31.
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