Renshaw (Dimension Data) spent four days in a German hospital prior to the Tour de Yorkshire and Amgen Tour of California where he was dusted up in a crash within the final 4km of stage five today - to undergo an endoscopic operation.
The 35-year-old has suffered from chronic sinusitis since returning to Australia for the off-season in October. On the bike, it’s manifested as managing pain akin to a constant head cold.
“I think it was knocking 10 or 15 per cent off my performance to be honest. It was infection after infection,” he told Cycling Central before stage five in Stockton.
Renshaw competed at Milan-San Remo, where he was a DNF, before the surgery, and abandoned the consequent Tour de Yorkshire on stage four. However, the Australian has taken confidence from his health in California where Dimension Data with Mark Cavendish has one last chance to chalk a win on Saturday’s final stage in Sacramento.
“Endoscopic is going in through the nasal holes. I believe they enlarge the opening to the sinus cavity, and managed to drain out of the secretion that was in there,” Renshaw said.
“It seems to be a success but after two more courses of antibiotics trying to clear-up the infection, I managed to get 10 good days of training before Yorkshire.”
Renshaw taking it year-by-year after 2017 ‘shocker’
The woe is just one of many that has stunned Dimension Data, as recently as today. Cavendish punctured within the final 20km of the 176.5km race to Elk Grove and was paced back on, only to be held-up in the crash that took out Renshaw and two other teammates.
Renshaw is an essential component of Cavendish’s lead-out train, which hasn’t fired since February’s Dubai Tour. The latter in California has been grateful just to stay upright following crashes that have seen the 30-time Tour de France stage winner finish only two of the six races he has started this season. Road captain Bernhard Eisel, also integral to Dimension Data’s Tour team, appears out indefinitely after undergoing emergency brain surgery for a crash-related subdural hematoma last month.
“The team has been on its hand and knees for a little while now. We’ve had a lot of guys injured, a lot of guys sick so it hasn’t been good at all,” Renshaw said, adding the South African-registered outfit is down but not defeated.
“Everyone has got a lot of morale because we keep getting back up. I think when we stop getting back up then the morale is finished.”
Renshaw remains set to start the Tour de France, hopefully with more preparation behind him than 2017. The former Tour of Qatar champion last season crammed training to the point of being “borderline crook” in order to commence the Grand Depart in Dusseldorf, Germany following ankle surgery.
Renshaw heads to Tour de France with nothing to lose
“That’s the plan at the moment but it can all be changed very fast. [After California], it’s [the Tour of] Slovenia, a race after, and then two weeks recovery before the Tour,” he said.
Cavendish, Renshaw and Eisel collectively have made a legendary contribution to the Tour de France since lofty Highroad days. How the race plays out in terms of dominance this July remains to be seen. Cavendish, 32, crashed out last year on stage four, days before Renshaw missed the time cut on stage nine.
Aside from the more recent disruption at Dimension Data, the WorldTour sprint field is also observing another change of guard with Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) making an impression. Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott) and Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) are also due to make their respective Tour debuts, and challenge the current establishment including Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin) and Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal).
With the exception of Groenewegen and Greipel, the aforementioned are all competing against each other and taking notes in California. Dimension Data sports director Roger Hammond said the outfit here is looking to build toward the Tour over make a statement, although that will surely now be a different story in Sacramento.