• Mark Renshaw and Mark Cavendish at the Dubai Tour earlier in 2017. (Getty)Source: Getty
Mark Renshaw is cramming training and racing against time to be fully fit for the Tour de France following injury and an early season that’s been mean to him and teammate Mark Cavendish.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
13 Jun 2017 - 8:48 AM  UPDATED 13 Jun 2017 - 8:49 AM

The 34-year-old cleanly fractured his ankle in a crash at Scheldeprijs in April and underwent surgery to fasten recovery. He made an 11th-hour return to competition at the Tour of California last month but wasn’t competitive having missed significant work in the lead-up.

“I’m trying to fit in all the work I had planned before California now. It’s borderline getting crook because you’re trying to cram in as much as possible,” Renshaw told Cycling Central.

SBS will broadcast all stages of the 1-23 July Tour de France

The lead-out specialist is undergoing physio in addition to road and gym training ahead of the 15-18 June Tour of Slovenia in which he and Cavendish are set to reunite. The pair opted against the Critérium du Dauphiné and typically tough Tour de Suisse in the wake of their uphill battles from injury and illness respectively.

“This is going to be the most underdone I’ve ever come into the Tour de France. I’m missing racing and I’m missing training so it’s going to be hard there is no doubt about it. But with Cav kind of on the same level we’ve got nothing to lose,” Renshaw said.

Cavendish has been shelved with Epstein-Barr, a virus Renshaw suffered from between 2009-2010, since April. The pair were in Monaco recently, training together around the Formula One Grand Prix that was staged there.

“I don’t see any reason why he won’t be there [at the Tour]. All-in-all it should be OK. With Epstein-Barr, you can’t rush back and that’s probably the hardest part for him,” Renshaw said.

Speaking on a drive to Italy, the Australian wasn’t bullish on how his Dimension Data team will stack up against primary rivals Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step) and Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal) during the opening sprint stages of the Tour.

“The build-up has been difficult for a lot of the guys on the team, and Kittel and these guys have had a magic season to date so they’ll be hard to beat,” Renshaw said. “No way we’re favourites. It’ll be just about trying to win a stage, then a second and then try to get to the end of the Tour – that will be a victory with the build-up that we’ve both had.”

The Tour is the pinnacle of Renshaw’s season and every race prior is a build toward it, which makes his classics crash even more painful.

“I’m not a big fan of the classics, there’s not much there for me to do. The worst possible thing that could happen was crashing in Scheldeprijs and I managed to achieve that. It’s made the rest of the season pretty tough,” he said. “Each year I try to get out of them [the classics] a little bit more! But Scheldeprijs is a sprinter’s race, so there is not much chance of getting out of that.”

Cavendish was the subject of less fanfare at the beginning of the Tour last season though ultimately returned to sprint superiority there, buoyed from claiming the first flat stage.

“Confidence makes the biggest difference. If you start the Tour with a lot of confidence, then it will roll on through to the end. I think the difference was Cavendish took that first win and that was it then,” Renshaw recalled. “As a sprinter when you get confident you start going up. Then you think you are unbeatable and in the end, you are unbeatable because you’re that confident.”

Renshaw weeks out from the Tour has gauged his form at “95 per cent”, which is not a bad figure all things considered. However, he emphasised riding into shape at the Tour, unlike other races, is not possible.

“As a sprinter, you need to come in on red-hot form because I think stage two, four, five and seven, off the top of my head, are going to be sprints, so you want to come in as best as possible,” he said. “It’ll help that we will be able to come off the back foot a little bit, not have big pressure on us or have to commit too early, which will be good.”