MARK Renshaw is a man who so often gets things right when it comes to leading out his Etixx-QuickStep team-mate Mark Cavendish, but after the second stage of the Tour De France on Sunday the Bathurst talent was blamed for things going wrong.
With Renshaw the only remaining member of the QuickStep sprint train at the head of the lead bunch with 500 metres to go, he started his final sprint earlier than usual.
He sustained his effort for as long as possible on legs which had been riding at speeds in excess of 50km/hr for more than an hour, but Renshaw was unable to get Cavendish as close to the line as he would have liked.
Cavendish had around 250m to sprint for himself, but the man known as the ‘Manx Missile’ could not maintain his effort and ended up rolling across the line in fourth.
It meant instead of celebrating a potential stage win and both the yellow and green jerseys after 166 kilometres from Utrecht to Zealande, Renshaw and his team-mates were left empty handed.
“It was a head wind finish and I just spoke with Mark [Renshaw] and I think he went too early and left me hanging,” Cavendish said.
“Maybe I could have waited, but that would have been a risky move. With a headwind finish ideally I’d want to go with less than 200 to go, but it was more. I knew it was a gamble.”
Before the start of the second stage, Cavendish had been talked about as a favourite for the honours even though the peloton was set to face testing crosswinds and stormy conditions on their way to Zealande.
“We know it’s going to be hectic with crosswinds and stuff. I’d imagine we will take responsibility straight away. First sprint, it would be nice to put one on the board,” Renshaw said before the start.
When an early four-man breakaway formed it was QuickStep who took much of the responsibility at the front of the peloton as Renshaw has predicted.
But the most telling move of the stage came with 57km remaining – in wet and windy conditions, QuickStep was able to split the peloton.
QuickStep had five riders in the lead group including Renshaw, Cavendish and then green jersey holder Tony Martin.
With Martin sitting second in the general classification and stage one winner Rohan Dennis in the second bunch on the road, Renshaw’s team was not only now riding for a stage win, but the yellow jersey as well.
With a 40km/hr tail wind behind them and the lead group including overall Tour de France hopefuls Chris Froome and Alberto Contador, they were clocked at 57km/hr at the 40km to go mark.
After surviving a technical run to the finish which included six roundabouts in the final two kilometres, it came time for the sprint.
Renshaw opened things up, but Cavendish was unable to finish it off as Andre Greipel came off his wheel to take the win in a time of three hours, 29.03 seconds.
Peter Sagan was second and by nudging out Cavendish for third with a final push, Fabian Cancellara took the yellow jersey over Martin thanks to a time bonus.
Though Cavendish blamed Renshaw, the talent of Bathurst product was acknowledged on the second day of the 102nd Tour de France by three-time green jersey winner Robbie McEwen.
“Renshaw, he is a man who is so cool, calm and collected through those tumultuous last kilometres,” McEwen said.