On 8 May 2020 the doors will open on a shop in Bathurst, NSW. The sign will read: ‘Renshaw’s Pedal Project’ and it marks the beginning of the next phase of Mark Renshaw’s cycling career.
A retail space in the country town of Bathurst has been emptying rapidly. Wheeler Cycles on Durham Street will soon morph into Renshaw’s Pedal Project. The bikes that had been on display are selling fast.
Exercise, we are learning, is a valuable commodity and people are looking for every opportunity they can to get a workout. And, with so much sport on hold in 2020, the bike is providing the answer for many Australians.
When Mark Renshaw and his wife, Kristina, first considered the idea of a bike shop in his hometown, there wasn’t quite the buzz that now exists in cycling retail. Rather, he wanted to invest in something he knows about and use his experience as a pro bike rider – and all he’s learned over the past 20 years – to encourage people to ride.
That was in February. Since then, Mark and Kristina have been unpacking a container of belongings that was shipped to Bathurst at the end of 2019, his final season in the pro peloton. And lo, he’s found more than a few suitcases full of memories.
The more they unpacked, the more the memorabilia collection grew.
When I called to talk to Mark Renshaw about his new shop, his new career, and the feelings he has for former colleagues who are in limbo, I spotted a couple of clothing racks in his Bathurst home. There was a lot of lycra to be seen; some jerseys with rainbow stripes, some in yellow and green, some with signatures collected from team-mates, some that had been ripped to bits in crashes that he’d probably rather forget… and all of it is interesting.
Out in the shed, he told me, there was more to be unpacked. And Mark admits he was surprised at the extent of his bike collection. “There’s something like a dozen bike bags out there waiting to be unzipped,” he laughed. “Some of the bikes still have their race numbers on… and I’ll be sure to take a few more photos for your bike gallery series on Instagram.
“I’ve been watching your feed and there have been more than a few posts showing bikes I’ve raced in the past.”
He’s nostalgic about his racing days, but also ready to get moving with his retail career.
In time we’ll find out more about how Mark Renshaw is adapting to life in Bathurst rather than Monaco and how the shop has been received by the locals. For now though, you can read a Q&A with one of Australia’s favourite riders from recent years (below).
But first, let’s have a look at some the bikes in his collection.
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Mark Renshaw Q&A (29 April 2020)
RIDE Media: It’s a Wednesday morning at the end of April 2020 and there’s a bloke out in Bathurst who is adjusting to a new way of life; he’s announced this morning that he’s opening a bike shop in May. Mark Renshaw, there’s a lot of life changes for you. How are you coping?
Mark Renshaw: “There have definitely been some big changes these last few months. You probably couldn’t get to more opposite lifestyles from living in Monaco to moving back to Bathurst.
“We’re happy to be back in Bathurst though and we spent the first few months after my racing career just enjoying our time here and doing a few things around the house and savouring the reality that we’re now living in Australia again.
“Then, before COVID-19 started to really step in, we committed to purchasing a bike shop. We’re now in the middle of a pandemic, so it may not be the best time to open but we’re really excited at the prospect of doing a little bit for the community and getting into retail.
“We’ve decided to call the shop ‘Renshaw’s Pedal Project’.”
RIDE Media: You’ve got a fair collection of memorabilia that I imagine might get hung in the shop when you do open the doors…
Mark Renshaw: “That’s the plan. I’ve got a dozen bikes from my career that I’d like to hang up in the shop.
“There are some of my first bikes from La Française des Jeux (2003-2005) and Crédit Agricole (2006-2008) to track bikes that I raced at junior world titles – and they still have the original parts on them.
“Then I’ve got a collection of jerseys from a lot of guys who I raced with over the years: good team-mates – and good friends.
“I also managed to stick away a few race numbers and start medals from the Tour de France and even some race books that people can have a flick through when they come into the shop.
“It’s my way of helping people to get a feel for what professional cycling was for Kristina and I during my career.”
RIDE Media: It was a long career. I still remember the early-2000s when you were part of Brad McGee’s FDJ-NSWIS development team… and that sort of morphed into your first pro contract with FDJ in France. Then it was a rollercoaster ride for a long time. Can you nominate one particular highlight from a career that’s spanned as long as yours did?
Mark Renshaw: “There is a personal highlight for me: when I won the Tour of Qatar overall (2011), that was really cool. When that race was on it was super-hard, it was one of the toughest races of the year to win.
“I was pretty naïve when I rocked up there. I thought you could start from the back of the bunch and roll to the front, but I soon realised that that wasn’t the case.
“As far as team success, I think working with Cav was a highlight. Out of all the victories we had, the most special was on the Champs-Elysées when we were first and second in the HTC team days (2009).
“Those are the two memories that stick out.”
RIDE Media: As I speak to you, I can see behind you racks and racks of clothing. You’ve got world championship jerseys of your own (as a junior on the track – team sprint 1999 and 2000, and ‘kilo’ in 2000) but you’ve also collected a few from mates of yours… are you surprised by your collection?
Mark Renshaw: “It was really just a case of going through suitcase after suitcase and rediscovering some things from the past.
“We had a shipping container sent back from Europe and I had bits and pieces everywhere. So, it’s been good the last few months to bring them all together. Now that I see them all in one place, I realise that they really add up to some great memories.
“There are some really special jerseys in there from my career and it brings back a lot of memories.
“A lot of those times were bloody tough moments – like suffering through the Tour de France to win the green jersey with Cav (2011), taking the yellow jersey back with Tony Martin after having a disastrous second stage in the Tour one year with Quickstep (2015).
“There are so many memories, good and bad, and looking at the jerseys does bring those races back to mind.”
RIDE Media: Let’s talk about the shop. It’s a bit of an unknown venture – going from bike racing to retail – but there’s a buzz surrounding cycling at the moment. There are a lot of Australians buying bikes. Do you feel like you’ve caught that buzz?
Mark Renshaw: “We have in Bathurst. It is definitely on-trend here. At the moment, the bike shop is nearly bare because they have sold almost every bike they had on the floor.
“I think we’ve seen pretty similar trends in Bathurst to the rest of Australia.
“The weather here has been incredible: blue skies and great riding temperatures. It’s perfect for families to get out with their kids on the bike.
“I hope the wave continues but I don’t know what it’s going to be like in winter because it’s been more than 20 years since I’ve been in Bathurst in the middle of the year. It may get a little bit nippy.”
RIDE Media: I’ve been observing cycling retail for years and, in the last few weeks, there have been a lot of bikes sold in Australia. What would you say to the new cyclist, someone who has realised that they need to get some exercise but they aren’t doing their usual weekend sport… they can’t do some of the things that are traditionally part of the Australian lifestyle… what are the first few tips you would give a new bike rider?
Mark Renshaw: “If we have someone come into the shop who wants to get into cycling the first thing I’d ask about is where and when they can ride.
“If they want they want to get off road, we will obviously have a big range of mountain bikes. If they want to stay on the road then that’s something I’ve got a lot of experience in so I’ll point them in the right direction with a road bike.
“Once they work out when and where they want to ride, it’d just be about tailoring a bike for their needs.
“You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars, and you can shop smart to get a bike that suits your requirements.
“We’ll stock Trek in our shop and I’ve just announced today that my ambassador role with Focus and Cervélo will start, so between those companies we’ve got great ranges of bikes.
“I think the biggest craze now is going to be the e-bikes; the battery-assisted revolution is going to make a big difference and allow someone to get out there and ride at the same speed that I did as a professional. That’s really exciting.
“I think they’re just going to be great for the community as people realise that it’s much more fun than they may expect, that it doesn’t hurt so much but you can still get a great work-out.”
RIDE Media: You have three kids – a one-year-old, three-year-old and seven-year-old. Is the eldest riding? And are you encouraging him to look at track riding, mountain biking, BMX…? What’s the cycling upbringing for the Renshaw children?
Mark Renshaw: “Will, our oldest son, oozes talent. He can pretty much do anything on a bike but, in saying that, he also has no interest to do anything too competitively. He hasn’t shown any interest in racing. For him, it’s more about riding around the house flat-out. He’s more into playing with monster trucks at the moment, rather than bike riding.
“Kristina and I aren’t too fussed either way. He can just continue cycling when and how he likes but he also likes to get on the motorbike. He tells me he’s going to be a professional motocross rider. I don’t know if that’s worse than being a professional cyclist or not…”
RIDE Media: Everyone is trying to adjust to the concept of zero racing. From your observations, from the people you know and the experiences you had, do you anticipate that there’ll be racing again in 2020?
Mark Renshaw: “I think the season will start up again. I don’t see them closing down the whole year. They’ll want to have some kind of racing before the whole year comes to an end.
“I think they’ll probably get the Tour de France in but I’m not sure if all the riders will be too fussed about getting in shape for a race like that but I think the sport needs it.
“It’ll be interesting to see whether they can pull it off or not.
“At the moment, I’m pretty happy that I’ve stopped my racing career and am back here in Australia getting ready to open my bike shop instead of having to train indoors in Monaco during lockdown.”
RIDE Media: When the shop opens, what is your role going to be? Are you going to be on the tools or on the sales floor?
Mark Renshaw: “The whole plan, before COVID-19 hit, was that I’d be in and out of the shop a little bit.
“I still have a role with NTT Global, helping with their client activation. So, the plan was to do the Tour in July, and the Tour of Yorkshire and a few other races with them. I was still going to be travelling a little bit, swinging in and out of the shop and also really trying to get events up and running in Bathurst and the NSW western region.
“I still want to promote cycling and get people to go to a bike shop – and to give them reasons to ride bikes. That’s been put on the backburner for the moment, until we’re allowed to start organising and running events again, but it gives me time to focus on the shop.”
– Interview by Rob Arnold