Bold bid earns Renshaw flying German's respect
Sprint sensation ... German rider Andre Greipel crosses the line at the end of the sixth stage to score a record 14th stage win at the Tour Down Under. Photo: Kathy Watt
MARK RENSHAW did not get the stage win he wanted on the final day of racing in the Tour Down Under, but by throwing caution to the wind with a brazen bid to outsprint German flyer Andre Greipel, he earned a ton of respect - foremost from the very man he set out to try and beat to the line.
Renshaw tried to catch Greipel and his mighty sprint train on the hop by unleashing long range in the finale of the 90km stage six circuit race.
The NSW rider from Bathurst knew the odds were against him, especially considering the current form of Greipel who ended his Australian visit with four wins - one in the People's Choice Classic last Sunday, and then in stage one, four and six in the Tour Down Under that opened the World Tour.
Podium celebrations ... Geraint Thomas, overall winner Tom-Jelte Slagter and Javier Moreno celebrate.
The moved work in that Renshaw actually got past a stunned Greipel; but then it failed as Renshaw was abruptly caught and beaten to the line.
And so the 15th edition of Australia's biggest race ended with Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) winning the stage from Renshaw (Blanco) and Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky). Meanwhile, Renshaw's Dutch teammate, Tom Slagter (Blanco) won the overall race by finishing 14th and at the same time.
Slagter won the tour by 17 sceonds from Spaniard Javier Moreno (Movistar) and 25 seconds from third placed Briton Geraint Thomas (Sky).
''He surprised me. I was also planning to kick, but he started early and I got onto the slipstream. He did a really good sprint,'' Greipel said of Renshaw.
Renshaw explained his tactic: ''I had to go early to jump him. I said at the team meeting this morning that was the only way I can beat him. I baulked a little bit when his lead out man swung off … I had to sit back down and go again. It cost me a little bit of speed, but I'm happy I laid it on the line.''
Renshaw was given nice steerage in the bunch by Australian teammate David Tanner up until two kilometres to go, but from there pretty much had to fight for himself with his other teammates being either injured from crashes - as Australian Graeme Brown was - or fatigued fro riding for Slagter.
Renshaw said he jumped ''just after the last corner there, with 250 metres [to go] maybe.
''I laid off two lengths for the last 500 to 600 metres purposely to try and get that little bit extra run to him. It's the only way I can beat him. I don't have a lead-out train like Greipel does … well, not a fit train.''
It was nonetheless a mighty finish for Renshaw and his teammates whose team has been rebranded as Blanco after their main sponsor Rabobank pulled its support. ''[It was] a sensational tour for us, The team is motivated. We have a great base here for this year.''
Renshaw tipped big things for Slagter, 23, a second-year professional nicknamed ''the Butcher'' because of his name's meaning in Flemish.
Slagter, who can sprint and climb, took the race lead on Saturday's fifth stage to Old Willunga Hill where he placed second to stage-winner Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE). ''He is a great guy, a second year pro. I rode with him in a few races like the Giro d'Italia [last year],'' Renshaw said.
''He took it to [Spanish overall contender] Joaquim Rodriguez in an uphill sprint finish. No one saw the result, but the team saw the potential he has.''
Meanwhile, Orica-GreenEDGE general manager Shayne Bannan labelled the race a success - albeit thanks to the stage win by Gerrans on Saturday.