HE had battled over steep climbs, tested his legs against the clock and four times had to pick himself up off the tarmac after crashing, but what hurt even more for Bathurst cyclist Mark Renshaw was his decision to abandon the 2012 Tour de France on the 11th stage.
The toll the first 10 stages – 1,819.9 kilometres if including the prologue as well – took was too much and Renshaw was unable to go on.
The Rabobank sprinter did start the 148km 11th stage from Albertville to La Toussuire-Les-Sybelles, but after some two hours and 25 minutes he could push the pedals of his bike no more.
“Today I found my limit. I didn’t recover from all of my crashes and not a chance to finish this stage,” Renshaw tweeted.
“To quit hurts more than I can describe.
“I am sorry to my team-mates, the staff and everyone involved. When you start the tour you want to make it to Paris, it hurts to fail.”
Renshaw’s 2012 Tour de France campaign was the fifth time he had entered the annual Grand Tour event – an event which he has only managed to finish twice.
In his debut appearance in 2008 with Credit Agricole, Renshaw covered more than 2,400km before a temperature
and sore shoulder forced him to withdraw on stage 15.
The following year, this time as part of the HTC squad, the Bathurst cyclist experienced the glory of crossing the finish line in Paris and even more impressive was that he placed second in the final sprint behind team-mate Mark Cavendish.
In 2010 Renshaw was controversially excluded from the tour after the 11th stage for headbutting rival Julian Dean in the sprint to the line, his stance that he was protecting himself and attempting to avoid a crash falling on deaf ears.
But the Bathurst sprinter put that behind him and again made it to the Champs-Elysees in 2011, this time knowing that he had played a key role in securing Cavendish the green jersey.
This year Renshaw returned as a member of the Rabobank squad and in the new role of lead sprinter, but luck was never really on his side as he was involved in crashes, got boxed in and couldn’t attack in one stage, and lost team-mates in the first week.
He had been hoping to make it to tonight’s 13th stage, a return to flatter terrain, and again challenge for a stage win, but he was unable to make it that far.
The 11th stage was one which featured two HC – or outside classified – climbs as the peloton headed into the heart of the Alps, both rising beyond the 2,000 metres mark.
It was the first of these that Renshaw fell victim to – the Col de Madeleine which summited at kilometre 40.
A regular feature of the Tour de France after the Alps made their first appearance in 1911, the 25.3km Col de Madeleine climb saw the field torn apart. Renshaw was not it’s only victim.
Vacansoleil’s Lieuwe Westra was the first to abandon while another two riders from the same outfit, Gustav Larsson and Rob Ruijgh, also withdrew.
Renshaw hit his limit at a time when the lead riders were some 72.5km from the finish while Rabobank’s Bauke Mollema abandoned not long after.
Europcar’s Pierre Rolland went on to win the stage in a time of four hours, 43 minutes and 36 seconds.