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(Click for larger image) Mark Renshaw (Skilled) corners on his way to overall victory in the 2007 Jayco Bay Cycling Classic Series.
Mark Renshaw
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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 21 - Stage 5: Adelaide City circuit, 81km

Skirting the barricades

Today our diarist was a close second to fellow Aussie sprinter, Robbie McEwen, in a fast and furious final stage of the Tour Down Under. As he approached the line, Renshaw was faced with one of those decisions that sprinters encounter quite often - go for it, or get to know the barricades.

As expected, today was going to arrive as a sprint and I suppose it was danger-time there for a while. With six or seven laps to go, there was a break that got away with about nine or ten guys in it, and I was getting a bit stressed that it wasn't going to come to a sprint. (Martin) Elmiger had got the seconds that he wanted and basically he couldn't be beaten, and AG2R was happy for a break to go and take the pressure off them.

Mark Renshaw (Credit Agricole)
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
(Click for larger image)

Leading into the final sprint, if I could go back in time I'd probably go a little bit earlier and it's always disappointing to run second, especially when I think I'd had just as good legs as Robbie (McEwen - stage winner), if not just as fast. I have just watched the final sprint on TV and I came within millimetres of the barricade, but at that point I'd committed and it was either go for the win or hit the deck. I was prepared to take both but as it was, I eventually had to stop pedalling about 10 or 20 metres out, otherwise I was going to hit the barricades.

It's better to stay upright at this time of year, but still I think it's a little bit disappointing that he (McEwen) didn't do a straight sprint. He's come to the left and with the barricades running from the left-to-right as well, it makes it look twice as bad, but he's definitely drifted over and it's only natural with the wind coming from the right that he's going to close the door on the left. I knew it was going to come and I had to fight it but as it was it didn't pay off - maybe next time.

Up to the first intermediate sprint the pace was on and the UniSA team were riding really fast and once that first sprint was settled, I think they kind of admitted defeat and then it was either going to come down to a sprint or a break-away.

Rest and then Europe

So now I can go back to Bathurst for a week or two and then head over to Europe for my first race, which is the Tour of the Mediterranean, and then the Belgian races like Het Volk, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne start the Belgian campaign. After that I'm doing the Belgian Classics and hopefully after that, as far as major races go, the Tour de France.

I'm looking forward to the European spring as I've got Paris-Nice, then Milan-San Remo, then I'll go to the Tour of Flanders, Gent-Wevelgem, and Paris-Roubaix and then the team has got me down for the French Cup races and the French tours, like the Four Days of Dunkirk. It's a pretty full-on schedule and you've got to try and hold it upright, which is the biggest problem in the peloton these days.

Last year in the Tour of Flanders I think I was a bit young and a bit underdone, but when it split on the Kwaremont I was in the front group with Thor Hushovd, so I'd done my bit in the lead-up to get him into the top 10, and as it was he rode over in the top 10, but I popped along with Ekimov, so I know I've got it in me to do better and now that I know the roads, it's getting easier.

The next big race in April and it's Paris-Roubaix. It's a love-hate relationship with Paris-Roubaix and it's probably the best-known classic there is, but I don't really like it too much. It's just a hard race if you're going to win it, I think you've got to be in your late 20s or early 30s just to have that kind of experience, but I'll go there to help Thor (Hushovd). He's the leader and at the end of the day he's good enough to win it. As a track rider, if I could get to the velodrome, I'd win the sprint easy! But then I have to get to the velodrome and be in a position to win it, and that is not something that is easy at all.

Well, we've seen this week that I can mix it with the big boys and I've got just as much power and if I ride the Tour de France this year, it's only going to get better. Thanks for reading and I'll catch you in Europe.