MARK Renshaw’s preparation for this year’s Tour de France may have been limited due to injury, but a stage podium in the Tour of Slovenia shows he is still a man to watch in the peloton.
The four-stage event in Slovenia, which concluded on Sunday, was the second time the Bathurst talent had raced since having ankle surgery.
The 34-year-old was unable to complete the Tour of California in May, but on the second day of the Tour of Slovenia, he showed his fitness levels are improving.
Riding for Dimension Data, Renshaw and his team-mates battled strong wind and heavy rain in the 169.9 kilometre second stage that started and finished in Ljubljana.
Renshaw’s team-mate and Dimension Data’s lead sprinter Mark Cavendish got caught out by a crash before the finish line, which meant the Bathurst rider got his chance.
“Once we entered the finish circuit, it got really chaotic with riders crashing in almost every corner due to the slippery roads,” Renshaw said.
“Our original plan was to sprint for Cavendish, but with about one kilometer to go, [Bernhard] Eisel told me on the radio to try and go for it myself instead.”
The work Renshaw had done prior to that incident meant his legs were not as fresh as other sprinters, yet he still managed to cross the line in third.
The honours went to Luka Mezgec (ORICA-Scott), with Robert Ferrari the other rider to beat Renshaw. They covered the distance in three hours, 50 minutes and 51 seconds.
“Unfortunately, when Mezgec jumped with 500 meters to go, I just couldn’t get in the wheel of him,” Renshaw said.
“I had already done quite a bit earlier in the race, chasing back to the peloton with Cavendish after the climbs. However, all in all, I’m happy to still finish third.
“The win would have been much preferred but since this is my first proper race back after my injury, I’m happy to be strong enough to make podium.”
Renshaw’s effort on stage two was not the only good sign for Dimension Data in Slovenia.
Hectic final today, I'm happy to finish 3rd after having to commit early. A lot of guys showed no fear in those wet turns, didn't help them— Mark Renshaw (@Mark_Renshaw) June 16, 2017
Cavendish, who has also had limited racing due to suffering from Epstein-Barr Virus for several months, placed second in stage four.
Renshaw helped set up his team-mate with a strong lead out after the day’s breakaway was caught with 10km remaining.
“Eisel and Renshaw did a brilliant job on the final kilometers, delivering me in a good position,” Cavendish, who was runner-up behind BORA-Hansgrohe’s Sam Bennett, said.
“Then BORA came and I went on the wheel of Bennett. I kicked and passed him, but it didn’t work out at the end. However, it’s been really nice here in Tour de Slovénie. I have enjoyed myself and I’m very happy that I came here to race.”
Dimension Data is yet to name its squad for this year’s Tour de France, which runs from July 1-23.
If Renshaw gets the nod, it will be his ninth participation in the event.