Mark Renshaw takes a moment to answer some questions about the job he will be doing in July 2023 when he joins the Astana-Qazaqstan team as a sprint consultant…
Q&A with Mark Renshaw
Astana-Qazaqstan announced overnight that Mark Renshaw would be joining the team for the upcoming Tour de France in the role of ‘sprint consultant’. It was something that had been considered at the start of this year and now the arrangement has been formalised.
The aim for Renshaw is to help get the best out of the team in its quest to help Mark Cavendish score another stage win – or two… or three – in his farewell to the TDF.
Renshaw flies from Australia to Europe on Monday but RIDE Media caught up with him a few hours after the team dropped the news of the consulting role.
Below is a transcript of a quick Q&A with Mark Renshaw about his role with Astana-Qazaqstan.
RIDE Media: There’s some big news today about you joining the Astana-Qazaqstan team as a consultant for the upcoming Tour de France. Can you give a quick overview of how the arrangement came about? Was it your idea? Mark Cavendish’s idea? Or the team’s idea?
Mark Renshaw: “When he first signed on with the team at the start of the year, I kind of mentioned to ‘Cav’ that it wouldn’t be a bad opportunity if – at some point – I could do some work throughout the season to try and bring the team up to speed with how to work with him.
“Those conversations with Cav led to having a discussion with Dmitri Fofonov, who was a team-mate of mine at Crédit Agricole all those years ago. I knew him really well back then and cycling is a small world… so, a few text messages back and forth with Dmitri opened the door for some dialogue with Alexandre Vinokourov. And from there we just came to an agreement.”
RIDE Media: You jet off on Monday (26 June) so you’ll have five days on the ground before the race starts. What cues can you give the team? Is it mainly advising the lead-out riders or will you also be giving some tips to Mark himself?
Mark Renshaw: “I think a lot of it will be around working directly with Mark, as well as Cees Bol – who is his main lead-out man.
“So, I bring a lot of experience with Cavendish himself, as well as tricks I’ve learned from my years doing lead-outs for a number of sprint specialists. I’ll also be analysing his competitors, the tactics, the strategy… even if I can make one percent of difference, it’s a pretty big opportunity.
“I know Cav is all in on the idea and has hopes of finishing off his time at the Tour de France on a high.”
RIDE Media: I know you’re really good mates with Mark. How often would you be in touch with him these days?
Mark Renshaw: “We speak every now and then. It might go weeks or months without talking but that’s the life of a pro cyclist really. Weeks go past like days.”
RIDE Media: You must have been impressed with his fortitude to get to Rome in the Giro d’Italia. It was really impressive just to make the finish of such a tough race, and then to finish off with a stage win was stunning. What are your feelings about what he did in May?
Mark Renshaw: “I probably know a little bit more than what others know about the challenges he faced in May, but for any sprinter to get through a race like that is impressive. With the amount of illness that was around, and the number of riders who had issues, it makes it even more impressive.
“Knowing that things didn’t go perfectly for Cav, he managed himself in typical style.”
RIDE Media: He received a lovely gesture from Geraint Thomas on the last day of the Giro. Do you think he might have pulled off the win without that super-tow?
Mark Renshaw: “Yes. I think the work that Geraint did – from three kilometres to go, to two – meant that it avoided any waves of riders coming over the top. But I think he rode perfectly. He was straight on the wheel of Fernando Gaviria, and we know that Gaviria goes long and goes early, so he read it as well as he could have.”
RIDE Media: Mark is the best at what he does… ever. So, how can you give him advice while watching from the sidelines?
Mark Renshaw: “Well, I slip into a role that I’ve seen others do very well. I use the example of when Erik Zabel came to HTC-Colombia as a consultant at the end of his career. He advised [the team’s directeurs sportif] Rolf Aldag and Allan Peiper on tactics.
“Also, I’ve learned a lot during my career and I can bring a hell of a lot to the table but really the big advantage is how well I know Cav – particularly compared to the guys at Astana. Of course, they know of him but they haven’t worked for nine years, or whatever it is, that I have with a guy like that.”
RIDE Media: Last question… it takes a bold journalist to ask about The Record but I imagine you’ve said “35” to him one or two times.
Mark Renshaw: “Yes. But I also think Cav is chasing not just one more victory. He’d like to win two, or three…!
“You know Mark Cavendish as well as anyone else in the media, so you understand his nature. He is just all in. He has prepared as best he can and whether it’s no victory or one victory or two… there’s no doubt that he’ll give his best every time he races. And I think he wants to honour the attitude that has made him the rider he is.
“That’s not me putting words in his mouth, that’s obviously my opinion based on what I know of him.”
– Interview by Rob Arnold