HIS preparation for this year’s Tour Down Under may not have been the best, but when it commences next Tuesday few – if any – riders in the peloton can boast the experience Mark Renshaw has.
For the 15th time in his career Renshaw will put his legs to test on the roads of Adelaide, the Bathurst talent forming part of seven-rider Dimension Data team which will tackle the season-opening tour.
Renshaw is a former Tour Down Under stage winner and wearer of the leader’s ochre jersey.
He has witnessed firsthand just how the tour has grown in its 20-year history, particularly since earning UCI WorldTour status in 2008.
“It gets better every year and the points now are so important. It is a nice race to start the year with, they run a good race and it’s always well organised,” he said.
Renshaw will get an indication of how his form is likely to hold up on Sunday night when taking part in the People’s Choice Classic prelude.
It is a 50.6 kilometre race on the streets of Adelaide and while Renshaw is a past winner – prevailing in the sprint to the line in 2007 – and picked up sixth last year, he’s not got any great expectations.
“This year it hasn’t been the best off-season as far as I’ve had some sinus issues that I was trying to get on top of. It put me a little bit behind schedule actually, it’s been a bit of a pain,” he said.
“But I’m looking forward to racing again now, I’m at a pretty good level, I wouldn’t say that I’m at my best ever, but I’m where I need to be to get around.”
This year’s edition of the Tour Down Under commences on Tuesday with a 145 kilometre leg from Port Adelaide to Lyndoch.
In total Renshaw and the rest of the peloton will cover 860km before the tour concludes on January 21 in Adelaide.
His job will be to try and help Dimension Data’s team leader Tom-Jelte Slagter in the battle for overall general classification honours, but he also hopes to press his claims in bunch sprints should the chance arise over the six stages.
Impressing on home soil in front of familiar faces is something Renshaw said will act as a motivator.
“The team are bringing more a GC [general classification] guy to try and do well in points in the GC than going for the stage wins, it’s pretty important to get points now,” he said.
“I’ll have a chance, definitely during the week I’ll have a couple of chances. But as it’s not been an ideal build up, it will be hard to challenge some of the guys who are on top of their game quite early.
“But I’ll definitely give it a shot.
“It's always nice to perform well down there because there will be a lot of people from home, friends and family down there watching.
“It’s always nice to be on the front foot, to perform well for those guys and definitely the expectations from the teams are that the Australian riders are going to do quite well because they have been out here, trained and know the race.
“They do lean on them for a bit more performance during the race.”