AFTER winning one of the races Mark Renshaw sponsored at this year’s Bathurst Track Open, a young rider from the ACT approaches the cycling star and asks for a selfie.
She smiles broadly then checks with her father to make sure the photo is in focus. While it didn’t seem possible, her grin spreads further across her face.
She is delighted to have met a man regarded as the best lead out rider in the world of professional road cycling.
As for Renshaw, he was more than happy to pose for photos and sign autographs. For all his success, the Bathurst talent has not forgotten his roots.
"I love coming home, I certainly love coming back to Bathurst. We've got a nice house here and all our friends and family,” Renshaw said.
"I started out on a pink bike - it was the only junior bike the club had - but it did go pretty fast. I'm not sure what happened to it though.”
Renshaw was in Bathurst as he took time out following his 13th year on the professional circuit.
He finished it with podiums at the Tour Down Under, Tour of Croatia and London-Surrey Cycle Classic, but played a role in his Dimension Data team – specifically via Mark Cavendish – earning many more.
Their successes as a team – 38 wins and 70 podiums – included Cavendish wearing the yellow jersey as leader of the Tour de France.
"The year went well, we had some good results, obviously the Tour de France was exceptional and that's all your year is really measured on, so we are pretty happy with that,” Renshaw said.
“It took a little while to sort out a few little problems in the team, but generally the results were really good.”
THIS will go down as Renshaw’s first season with Dimension Data, an African team that made its debut as UCI team in 2016.
Dimension Data proudly states ‘we ride for a cause’ given it has links with Qhubeka and the #BicyclesChangeLives program.
Essentially, Dimenson Data helps raise funds which are used to buy bikes which are then donated to people in Africa.
"The team is really well liked, especially with the foundation Qhubeka behind the team, it really drives people to support the team more than other teams like Sky for example,” Renshaw said.
"So it's really well liked, we have a good following and this year it came together well.”
TOUR DE FRANCE
THERE is no secret that the Tour de France is the pinnacle for professional road cyclists like Renshaw each year and the 2016 edition brought with it mixed fortunes.
In what was his eighth appearance in the cycling epic, Renshaw enjoyed a brilliant opening week with his team-mates.
Cavendish picked up three stage wins, including the tour opener to claim the yellow jersey.
It moved the Isle of Man sprinter to second place on the list of most career Tour de France stage wins.
Another of Renshaw’s Dimension Data team-mates, Steve Cummings, produced a brilliant solo ride to pick up another stage win.
However, Renshaw fell ill and was unable to complete all 21 stages and make it to Paris.
Five kilometres into stage nine to Andorre Arcalis, Renshaw was forced to abandon.
"The Tour de France was just exceptional - winning four stages with two different riders,” he said.
"It was a hard tour and I was just really unlucky I think. I really wanted to make it to Paris, it is the grand final of cycling, especially for sprinters. So it was really disappointing not to make it there.”
HAVING been a professional road cyclist for more than a decade, it was strange to think that 2016 marked the first time Renshaw was selected to ride for Australia at the road World Championships.
He was named in the 10-man squad that headed to Qatar to take on the world’s best.
Though Renshaw had a proven record on the roads of Doha – having won the 2011 Tour of Qatar – and the Australian squad was a strong one, things did not play out as he had hoped.
In the lead up Renshaw’s wife Kristina gave birth to son Olly earlier than anticipated. Naturally family took priority over preparation.
Then once in Doha and racing, Renshaw punctured at a critical time.
"Yeah I finally got selected in the Australian team, it was nice to finally represent Australia in the worlds even though the race really didn't go as planned and the lead up to the race didn't either,” he said.
"Our little boy came early - he was five weeks early - missing the birth, coming home late - it was all a bit hectic for a little while and probably not the best lead up to the worlds for me.
"But I think my form was okay, the week after in Abu Dhabi [with Dimension Data] was pretty successful.”
LIKE all competitive riders, Renshaw is always striving to do better in an increasingly competitive peloton.
Still, he was happy with how 2016 unfolded and is hoping for better health next year.
"Personally I think I had a pretty good year, it's not the best year that I have had, but I fell ill a few times in the year and the Tour de France was one of them,” he said.
"We have tried to out our finger on why that is happening, but I think generally the form was there.”