WHEN Bathurst cyclist Mark Renshaw tweeted “happy to have a rest day” after surviving the first 10 days of the 101st Tour de France, it most certainly could have been called an understatement.
As part of Omega Pharma-QuickStep’s team for the biggest cycling event in the world, Renshaw has had to endure tricky cobbled sections, hectic bunch sprints, wet and slippery roads plus leg-burning climbs.
His goals were redefined after the opening stage - going from Mark Cavendish’s lead out man to the main sprinter for his team when the Isle of Man flier was forced to withdraw after crashing.
Other big names such as defending champion Chris Froome and Alberto Contador have also been forced to withdraw while Renshaw has kept his legs pumping to cover 1786.5 kilometres thus far.
He has picked up three top-10 stage placings and his team a pair of stage wins via Tony Martin and Matteo Trentin.
While there are more mountains to come when the race resumes tonight (AEST), Renshaw is hoping he gets a chance to stand on the podium before the tour’s conclusion.
It would mean beating the likes of current green jersey holder Peter Sagan and two men who have already succeeded in bunch sprints at this year’s tour in Marcel Kittel and Andre Greipel, yet the Bathurst talent remains optimistic.
“The tactics are simple. We need to catch him [Kittel] off guard and we need some luck,” Renshaw said.
“I didn’t have the preparation to beat Kittel in the sprint [on stage three], but I have the experience for the positioning.
“I know how to win, but this year has been dedicated to Cavendish - and more about me leading him out with a progressive long sprint rather than a short and sharp effort.
“I think I can beat Kittel, but luck needs to swing my way and he needs to be unlucky. So a lot of things need to happen for me to win a stage, but I’ll keep trying. I know where I am in relation to these guys, but it’s a big ask to win a stage.”
It was a big ask just to finish Monday’s 10th stage let alone win it as the 161.5km leg from Mulhouse to La Planche des Belles Filles featured seven categorised climbs.
From the 20km mark onwards there were basically no flat roads with riders either climbing or descending.
It was one of these that claimed the scalp of Contador, the Tinkoff-Saxo team leader crashing out on the descent of the day’s third climb - the Col du Platzerwasel.
Astana’s Vincenzo Nibali powered to the finish line, pulling away from his rivals as the gradient reached 20 per cent in the closing stages. His second stage win of the tour also put him back in the yellow jersey.
Renshaw finished with a large group after four hours, 59 minutes and 55 seconds.
“That was one nasty stage! At one point visibility was only six riders in front of you and it was freezing cold,” Renshaw tweeted.