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Ace lead-out man Mark Renshaw, sidelined with the Epstein-Barr virus, is on the mend and will be back in action in time for the most important events of the year.
HTC-Columbia officials said Renshaw — who is critical to setting up HTC-Columbia sprinter Mark Cavendish in the mass sprints — will resume training this week and will be in top condition for the year’s main events.
“He will be ready for California, the Tour and the worlds,” said Rolf Aldag. “The most dangerous thing right now is that he would come back too early.”
Renshaw, 27, was stricken with the virus in December and was unable to attend the team’s early season training camps and will not race the Tour Down Under in his native Australia.
Renshaw joined HTC-Columbia in 2009 and proved an essential part of the team’s formidable set-up train, helping to spring Cavendish to six stage victories at the Tour de France.
Team doctors have been monitoring Renshaw’s progress and said he’s nearly fully recovered, but Aldag said the most important thing the team can do is encourage Renshaw to take his time coming back.
The virus can be crippling to a cyclist and adequate recovery is important. HTC-Columbia’s Michael Rogers saw much of his 2008 season derailed as he struggled to recover.
“We want him to take his time and we are trying to calm him down. He was super-frustrated that he could not come to camp, but he knows he doesn’t have to qualify for anything,” he said. “His position on the team is secure. It’s not worth it for him to hurry back to race something like Tour of Qatar. That only risks him becoming ill again.”
Cavendish called Renshaw “the best lead-out man in the world” and the Aussie, a strong sprinter in his own right, will return to his position at the nose of the action.
“Just as the Swiss are famous for making watches,” Aldag said. “Renshaw is perfect in the lead-out. He is just so good. Mark knows he has a very good chance to win when Renshaw does his job.”
Aldag also expressed confidence the HTC-Columbia train will be firing at full cylinders despite losing several key riders, including George Hincapie and Michael Barry.
“We have several riders who can participate in the train,” he said. “We are very confident that Cavendish will have just as a successful year as he did in 2009.”
Having Renshaw back in the mix will only help assure that success.
MORE: Mark Renshaw is the key to Cavendish’s winning ways, by Andrew Hood.