After Mark Renshaw was omitted from the national team for the world championships in Copenhagen later this month, Rob Arnold spoke to the rider who has been universally appraised as the best lead-out man in the world.
Here is a transcript of that quick chat where he tries to answer a question that a large portion of cycling fans in Australia want to know: why was Renshaw overlooked for selection?
Question: Well done yesterday [when he finished second to his team-mate Mark Cavendish in the opening stage of the Tour of Britain].
“Yeah, cheers. It doesn’t mean much, huh?”
It all helps. I thought it might have been a result to help put you on the national team but it seems that’s not the case.
“Nah. I had that feeling for a long time now.”
What’s happened? Have you done something to the national team?
“It would seem that way. I just don’t know. I’ve got no idea. I’m a little bit dumbfounded at the moment to tell you the truth.”
From all that I’ve read – and I haven’t ridden the course – but it’s said to be a “flat, course for sprinters” so they need a lead-out man. What did Matt White tell you about your non-selection?
“Whitey told me that they basically decided to leave me at home. They’ve gone a different direction with the team and that they don’t know their final approach yet but it’s probably due to Goss not doing as much racing as they’d hoped. They don’t know if he’ll have a key role in the team and that was about all really.”
How do you take a decision like that? Do you get irritated or do you just shrug your shoulders and say, ‘Oh well, another year… another season when I can’t represent Australia’?
“I really don’t know how to take it. I don’t know whether it’s worth being upset about. I could really cut loose and say a lot but I don’t know what it means. I don’t know who is making the selection. Obviously Kevin Tabotta has got a big part but I don’t even know if Kevin Tabotta is in Europe or if he’s even watched a road race.
“It’s obvious that I would go there to do one job – the job I’m best at – and if they don’t want to take me for that, then that’s okay I’ll stop my season now and I’ll get to go back to Australia a week earlier and start preparing for the Tour Down Under with Rabobank. And hopefully next year I’ll give them a real headache.”
Do you think that there is some sort of political alliance being mapped out through your trade team connections and that this is one of the reasons for your omission?
“I think that it’s not independent enough, I suppose you could say; between the selectors and GreenEdge. To tell you the truth I don’t know the exact roles of everyone in the selection criteria and I’ll be sending some emails around and ask for some clarification on who is picking the team and why it’s been picked like it has been.
“I’ll see what they have to say. Basically I’d like to know who is making the decisions and maybe ask them personally why they haven’t given me a shot.
“Matt White mentioned that they’re going with more experience over 250 kilometres.
“There are a lot of good guys in the team and that’s the trouble with Australia: we’ve got so many good guys – but I still don’t see how I’ve been left out.”
Just to clarify a couple of points: you are in form and willing/keen to ride?
“Yeah! Over the last two months I’ve chased them [Cycling Australia] up a lot over the selection basically because I already had the feeling that they weren’t confident or really didn’t want to take me. I made numerous calls to discuss the program and everything but there’s more to it – but I don’t know what that is.”
There’s some innuendo that it’s because you have such strong ties with Cavendish…
“Yeah, that’s true. I’ve heard that too. But at the end of the day it’s crazy to think that I’d go there and lead out Mark Cavendish.
“I’m going to go back to live in Australia after my career is over. I’m a proud Australian. I don’t know how that would go down if I did go and lead him out. There’d want to be a nice, big exchange of money and maybe another passport for me but I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
– Interview by Rob Arnold ([email protected])