WHEN Mark Renshaw talked about the possibility of punctures costing riders in the elite men’s road race at the World Championship in Doha, he probably wasn’t thinking of himself.
But it was a puncture that saw the Bathurst product – a man who had previously tamed the Qatar desert – end up with a DNF in the 257.7 kilometre road race.
Instead it was defending champion Peter Sagan who took the honours in a sprint finish ahead of Mark Cavendish – the man Renshaw spends most of the year riding for.
The best of the Australian contingent was Michael Matthews, who placed fourth after five hours, 40 minutes and 43 seconds in the saddle.
Sunday’s race marked the first time that Renshaw had represented Australia at the elite men’s World Championships level on the road.
As a former Tour of Qatar winner and man who knew how to ride in the at times punishing desert cross-winds, Australian coach Brad McGee knew he was a big asset to the team.
Renshaw also brought with him the reputation of being one of the world’s finest lead out men when it comes to bunch sprints.
His presence gave McGee and the Australians a number of options given the team included sprinters such as Matthews and Caleb Ewan.
But those options were reduced as the race unfolded. A sand storm and strong winds split the peloton which caught out Ewan, while Luke Durbridge crashed out after being hit from behind.
Fellow Australians Heinrich Haussler and Steele Von Hoff withdrew, while Renshaw’s race was ended by a puncture.
“He punctured just before the second right, before we turned to head back to Doha, which was just unbelievable,” McGee said. “There are moments in a race that are the worst moments to puncture, and this was it today.”
McGee was disappointed Australia missed out on a medal, but could not fault the effort of Renshaw and his team-mates in testing 30 degrees plus temperatures.
“By the time we were 50 kilometres into the race, it felt like it had been 150 kilometres for everyone. Despite that, the boys were keeping cool, sticking to the plan, looking after our priority riders,” he said.