The non-selection of Mark Renshaw for the World Championships has certainly caused a stir, with many arguing dirty politics have kept him out of the team.
In mid-February, immediately after Renshaw had won the Tour of Qatar ahead of Heinrich Haussler, I wrote a blog about the tough selection decisions that would need to be made ahead of this year’s race for the rainbow jersey. I had Renshaw as first reserve.
The sole reason I had him on the reserve list was that he is yet to prove himself in a major one-day classic over 250-plus-kilometres.
A 260km one-day race is ridden in a far different manner to a 220km Tour de France stage.
Due to the intensity of a one-day race the group that makes it to the finish, in contention for the win, is normally a fairly select one, rather than the big peloton we see in the sprint stages of the Tour.
For example there were just 25 riders in the sprint to the line at last year’s world championships.
The 2009 Milan-San Remo saw Cavendish sprint to victory from a group of 50, with gaps that had them spread over 22-seconds. This year Goss won from a group of eight, while at Gent-Wevelgem (210km), the sprinters classic, a group of 36 clocked the same time in a bunch sprint finish.
Renshaw’s best one-day result, to date, has been in the 2008 Vattenfall Cyclassic – Hamburg where he finish second behind Robbie McEwen. That four-and-a-half-hour race was almost two hours shorter than the average elite men’s road race at the world championships.
Despite the argument I’ve made against him, my recent selection for Cycling Central, just ahead of the official Cycling Australia announcement, included Renshaw. I just think he’s worth the punt. He's the undisputed best leadout man in the world. His loyalty is also undisputed. Mark Cavendish will attest to his selfless approach.
But Matt White, along with Kevin Tabotta, has made the decision and Renshaw is on the bench.
Politically motivated? Politically the best thing for White to do is pick a team that delivers an Australian, any Australian, to the finish line first.
Yes there are plenty of past team selections that have reeked of bias and favouritism. The process that saw Tony Davis pushed aside, at the last minute, for Dean Woods to ride the individual pursuit at the 1988 Olympics Games set the benchmark on this front.
As for this being one of those cases, I’m not so sure.
The flip side to this being a dirty, politically motivated decision, is we have a new team manager prepared to make a tough decision that he knows will be against popular opinion.