DOHA: Mark Renshaw could not hide his disappointment at failing to claim a win in either of the first two stage races of his first season as a lead sprinter.
But, after the NSW rider took third place in the last stage of the Tour of Qatar that finished in Doha on Friday, it was made clear by his Dutch Rabobank team that they are still supporting the former lead-out rider of British world champion Mark Cavendish in his attempt to show he can be a race winner.
Renshaw's role with Cavendish, who is now on Britain's Team Sky, was to provide him with the vital and last slipstream to follow before he launched into a winning sprint. But today they are on rival teams after their HTC-Highroad squad disbanded last year, and Renshaw is set on beating Cavendish.
That has not yet happened. Cavendish did not race last month's Tour Down Under in Adelaide where Renshaw's best place was second on the last stage to German Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol), who missed the Tour of Qatar but will start in the Tour of Oman on Tuesday.
In Qatar, Cavendish won two stages and was set for a third until he crashed with 150 metres to go on Friday in the 120.5-kilometre last stage from the Sealine Beach Resort to the Doha Corniche.
Renshaw, meanwhile, left Qatar to return to his European base in Monaco on Friday night, with his second in Adelaide and third in Doha as his best results so far.
He admitted he was disappointed to return without a victory to Europe, where the big races now await him and his team.
''We rode well as a team, but I'm disappointed I didn't get a win here and at Tour Down Under,'' Renshaw told The Sun-Herald. His next events are the one-day Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne race in Belgium on February 26 and the Paris-Nice stage race in France from March 4-11.
However, Renshaw still has the trust of his teammates, as Graeme Brown, one of his teammates, said after Friday's last stage in Qatar.
The stage, in which French world under-23 champion Arnaud Demare (FDJ) won from Denis Galimzyanov (Katusha) of Russia, and Renshaw, also had Belgian Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick-Step) winning the race overall from American Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Barracuda), who was second at 28 seconds, and Spaniard Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky) who was third at 33 seconds.
Brown was once regarded as a lead sprinter at Rabobank, but is now a rider who plays a big role in organising the lead-out ''trains'' that Rabobank are trying to formulate for their growing stock of sprinters that includes Renshaw, Dutchman Theo Bos or another Australian Michael Matthews.
Brown said Rabobank were experiencing a change in culture by trying to develop such trains for their sprinters, whereas previously they left sprinters to fend for themselves.
''We've got to fix [the lead-out train] … everyone is putting in 100 per cent, but we have to fix up the little 1 per centers.''
He said Renshaw could win, even if his past as a last lead-out rider made him launch his own sprint earlier than most sprinters would.
''He is strong enough to go earlier. He has done it [as a lead-out rider] from 500m out to 200m out. He can do a 300m sprint at full gas to drop Cavendish off [in position to sprint to the line].''
Rupert Guinness covered the Tour of Qatar courtesy of the event organisers, Amaury Sports Organisation.