Mark and Mark, it’s a formidable pairing: Cavendish and Renshaw – they’ve been together on teams for a large portion of their respective careers. A sprinter and his lead-out man; friends, confidants, and room-mates at races, they understand each other on and off the bike.
The winner of 26 stages of the Tour de France is a complex character who would prefer to shun the media attention that is lavished upon him. He speaks in hushed tones but generally offers amusing commentary – if you can hear him amidst the fuss that usually surrounds him at a bike race.
The man who helps deliver the winner to the line doesn’t mind if he has to talk to the media; he speaks clearly and offers good insight into the contest as well as other aspects of his job.
At the end of stage seven of the 2015 Tour de France, the Manxman went to the podium to collect another bouquet, meanwhile the Australian returned to the team bus after signing a few autographs and posing for photos along the way.
RIDE caught up with Renshaw as he arrived at the Etixx-Quickstep bus. “Can you talk?”
“Sure, no problem.”
And with that a scrum of other media appeared and Renshaw happily explained the events of the day, in the bright sun, with a smile on his face and a sense of contentment. Here is a transcript of that exchange…
* * * * *
Mark Renshaw: “It wasn’t a straight-forward sprint at all. We didn’t know exactly what it would be like in the finish. We knew it kicked up and it was on a corner but in the bus this morning we spent 20 minutes talking about how we were going to do it and the final conclusion was, ‘Mark [Cavendish], you just do what you need to do.’
“We spoke about it and said we need to come from behind with Cav. He got beaten twice hitting out early and he didn’t want to do it again. So today we put him in the wheel, I think it was of [Alexander] Kristoff – I can’t tell you exactly – and from there he had the win.
“He’s a winner, he knows how to do it and today the pressure was on so he came through with the goods.”
RIDE: Those roundabout in the last kilometre, they put Giant-Alpecin off the rails a little bit didn’t they?
“Yeah, they were difficult for everybody. At one 1.8 or 1.5km [to go] we kind of got stuck on the inside with the surge on the left and Matteo Trentin had to move me back up in the wind on the left side and from there I did my turn and put Cav into Kristoff.
“It was pretty much how we planned to do it but it certainly wasn’t pretty… but it got the job done.”
[Matt Rendell, ITV]: Was there a lot of communication between you – a lot of shouting getting into the right place in a complicated finish?
“No, there’s less and less communication now. The crowds are too loud, there are too many [lead-out] trains coming at one time…
“If I get the chance I glance over the shoulder just to make sure he’s there and he’s got trust in me.
“As I said, we wanted to put him in the wheel of somebody – whether it was [André] Greipel, Kristoff or [Peter] Sagan. He just didn’t want to hit out first.
“There’s enormous pressure on [Cav], on me, on the team even though we’ve won two stages already – every thought we’d have three or four stages, so it’s great to pick one up.”
[Rendell]: Did you ever have a feeling in the gut of, ‘Yes, he’s got it’? And when did that come?
“I knew from day one when we arrived at the Tour that he’s got it. This year is a big year, there’s a lot of pressure with the future a little bit uncertain so nothing speaks better than results.
“The first two [losses] really hurt so that’s why we’ve got to make all the rest matter.”
RIDE: You’ve been there for many of the 26. How does this rate amongst them – because of the near misses?
“I think it goes back to 2009 when everyone said he had a crap year. We missed the first one or two stages there and then we came out with three or four after. It’s very similar [this year]: big pressure on his shoulders and the guys pulled together and he once again showed the classy bike rider he is.
“Greipel has beaten him twice but I think at the end of the Tour we’ll look back and hopefully he’s got the highest count of stage [wins] here.”
RIDE: Just lastly, how is he in the room these last few days when he’s had a couple of close calls? Does he get moody?
“I wouldn’t call it ‘moody’. Look, he expects big things from me; I expect big things from him, so when we don’t succeed, we’re not happy but luckily our wives take the full brunt of that, not each other… and we’re pretty lucky we’ve got good women behind us because I think if we vented on each other then I don’t know how good the relationship would go.”