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Photo ©: Bettini

(Click for larger image) Mark Renshaw (Skilled) corners on his way to overall victory in the 2007 Jayco Bay Cycling Classic Series.
Mark Renshaw
© Shane Goss

Mark my words! The Mark Renshaw diary

One of Australia's brightest up-and-coming sprint talents, 24 year-old Bathurst boy Mark Renshaw is drawing ever closer to making his mark within the ProTour peloton. Scoring an early season victory at the Jayco Bay Cycling Classic as well as being crowned overall winner, there's no doubt this man is in form. Now up against some of the best in the world at the Tour Down Under, can Marky Mark take this form to the next level?

January 16, 2007: Down Under Classic

Let the champagne flow!

I know I've been in pretty good form. I've come off the Bay Crits in pretty well, and I've used that as specific work for the Tour Down Under. It's a shame today's just a one-day race; I would've liked to grabbed the first stage of the tour, but that's now a new objective for tomorrow.

But, yeah, I've kind of been pretty serious this off season. I've been back in Bathurst and tried to do everything right; I s'pose I've eaten a little bit better and stayed off the alcohol, done my stretching... and it seems to be paying off. The other thing is, I'm into my fourth year as a professional now - the strength gets better each year.

I'd actually done more training [last year], so I definitely thought I wouldn't be going as good as last year. [In 2006], I was coming into a contract year, so I wanted to come out stomping at the start of the year. I was on a one-year deal with Credit Agricole, but I re-signed for two more seasons.

I haven't done the quantity of training this year, but I've done a bit more quality. So, after the Tour Down Under, I don't have any more racing till the Tour of Med; I'll do some long rides [in between] and by the time get to Europe, I'll have enough hours under the belt to do the long ones [races].

After the Bay Classic, I was surprised how well I came up... and so quick. I hadn't really done too many long rides - just a bit of intensity behind the motorbike, that kind of thing. It seems doing the little things pays off. Not taking anything away from the Bay Classic, though, it's a totally different kettle of fish [here]: each team has one or two world-class sprinters, whereas the Bay Classic was more of an Australian field.

But it's always a good gauge; I thought I had some form after that, and was hoping to do a lot better at the national titles on Sunday, so I'm on an up and down roller coaster. Seems I'm on the up at the moment...

Throughout the race [tonight], I was feeling okay - I didn't feel super. I had [a look] at my heart rate there and it wasn't getting too high and it was dropping down quick when the speed was down. So I knew I was feeling good and had done the intensity.

The last three laps were the most important. There was a big move up the back straight with Botcharov, the little Russian in our team - he'd done a really good job and he did the last two laps with a couple of CSC guys. The second last corner, the tight left-hander, I kind of had a bit of trouble with Hilton Clarke - we were fighting for McEwen's wheel. From then on, it was kind of slow-mo: I had the run down the left-hand side, and I just had to get past Baden Cooke; I knew I was either going to win the race or hit the deck!

It was one or the other: if Baden went right, then I was hitting the deck; if Baden stayed where he was, then I was going to win the stage. I just needed a little bit of luck for the door to stay open, and it did.

I spent the first two years [of my career] trying to keep upright and stay out of trouble, and I s'pose you need to do a bit of an apprenticeship in the peloton. Now I've got a bit of respect amongst the other sprinters, but you still do you see a few falls. This year I'm probably going to hit the deck more than what I usually do because I'm going to start pushing those boundaries a little bit more, and if I get a start in the Tour de France, then that's just part and parcel of the game. Julian Dean showed how it's done - [last year] I think he fell over two days in a row!

I think tomorrow's going to be the GC day. I think it's going to be similar to last year, same kind of stage: dead roads, hot and windy - once 20 guys get up the road, the race is going to shut down and that's going to be the GC. It's just that kind of race: there are a lot of guys who are motivated to win, there are a lot of guys just here for training; once the guys that are motivated get up the road, that's the race.

Last year, I came sixth or seventh [overall]. You need a little bit of luck, but you need to make the luck, and now that I've got some strength, it's a lot easier to push that window a little bit further.

It's not a hard tour compared to the ones we race in Europe. There's definitely no reason to say I can't win [overall] - I finished top 10 on GC before. But as I've said, this year I haven't done the big k's I've usually done - I've done more intensity - but they're only short stages, 150, 160k; I might die towards the end, but then again, I might get better each day.

One glass of champers [champagne] was all I had today. Okay, maybe two! There was one extra, so I got the extra one. Oh - and we also managed to have some extra champagne at lunchtime! It was our directeur's birthday. He's on a big winner now: he saw a koala and then found 10 dollars; then it's his birthday and I won a stage - and he also drew the number one car tomorrow!

There's a bottle of Bollinger on the table, so we might be drinking through straws tonight! But nah, I'm going to stay serious. I want to win at least one more stage and be up there on general [classification].

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