Renshaw's Qatar win a career first
After years of being the bridesmaid, Bathurst rider Mark Renshaw secured the biggest title of his career on Friday night when he took out the Tour of Qatar, his first pro-tour stage race overall win.
Having won the fourth stage of the race and establishing a six-second buffer over his nearest rival, the final stage was all about playing it safe for the 28-year-old, and he did that to perfection to pick up the overall victory.
Renshaw finished 17th on the fifth and final leg from Sealine Beach Resort into Doha, but was credited with the same time as winner Andrea Guardini of Italy and yellow jersey rival and countryman Heinrich Haussler, who was ninth.
In the end, Renshaw won by eight seconds from Haussler, and was 17 seconds ahead of third-placed Daniele Bennati of Italy.
And the former track specialist, who is the key lead-out man to British sprint king Mark Cavendish during the hectic bunch sprints, kept an eye on his main rival throughout the day to claim the biggest road win of his career.
Renshaw was promoted as his team’s leader after Cavendish suffered injuries in a crash on the first stage.
“I’ve been lucky enough to ride for Australia on the track and in the Olympic Games, but on the road this is the best result I’ve ever had,” said Renshaw, whose win prompted double celebrations a week after HTC’s Ellen van Dijk won the women’s Tour of Qatar.
“The last day was really a question of staying in the pack and making sure I stayed close to Haussler and at the head of the field.
“It’s great to come here and get the win in Qatar, it’s such a hard race and to follow on the win by the women’s team makes it even more special.”
Belgium’s Greg Van Avermaet and Lithuanian Gediminas Bagdonas provided the day’s early entertainment, the pair breaking free after kilometre 12 and going on to build a lead of more than five minutes on the peloton.
But their 106km escapade came to an end just six kilometres from the end as the sprinters’ teams drove the peloton towards the finish line.
However, despite the pair’s bid to finish in a victory flurry, they had to sit up in the final 200 metres as Guardini powered over the line centimetres ahead of fellow Italian Francesco Chicchi.
Guardini, a first-year professional who won an impressive five stages at the recent Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia, said: “Even when I was crossing the line I wasn’t sure I’d won. Francesco was coming back so fast.
“It’s amazing what’s happening in my first year as a pro. Five stages at Langkawi, and now to win in Qatar ahead of the best sprinters in the world is just unbelievable.”
Former three-time champion Tom Boonen, who won stage one, finished the race in tatters – a crash early in the stage leaving the Belgian with knocks to his right elbow and left knee, as well as ripped shorts.