Af ter an in­jur y- hi t 2018, Di­men­sion Data need a change of for tune in or­der to stay in the Wor ldTour

Procycling - - PROLOGUE -

Di­men­sion Data’s in­jury-hit 2018 con­tin­ued well into the off-sea­son when Mark Renshaw frac­tured his pelvis in a col­li­sion with a car while train­ing in early De­cem­ber. A frus­trat­ing, defin­ing theme of the squad’s year was the string of in­juries that hit riders in­clud­ing Mark Cavendish, Steve Cum­mings, Ben O’Con­nor and Bern­hard Eisel. The team also had to do with­out an­other key sup­port rider, Reinardt Janse van Rens­burg, for the first half of the year as he re­cov­ered from the lin­ger­ing ef­fects of off-sea­son groin surgery.

Alas, the team’s bad luck still stalked 36-year-old Renshaw as he be­gan prepa­ra­tions for 2019. “I’m not sure if the im­pact with the car or the ground caused my in­juries but it was def­i­nitely a scary mo­ment as you now re­alise it could have been much worse,” he said in the team’s press re­lease about the in­ci­dent.

“It’s bloody sh*t,” the Aus­tralian told Pro­cy­cling as he con­va­lesced at home a cou­ple of days later. Renshaw also had two prior vis­its to surgery last year to com­bat chronic si­nusi­tis that de­vel­oped at the end of the 2017 sea­son and which he es­ti­mated was knock­ing “10 to 15 per cent” off his per­for­mances. After his crash he said: “It’s go­ing to be three months un­til I can get back into it and do some ef­forts and train prop­erly.”

This year was sup­posed to mark a slight change of di­rec­tion for the lead-out man who has as­sisted Cavendish in 17 of the Manx­man’s 30 Tour wins as team-mate. In 2019, Renshaw was set to de­ploy his lead-out skills more widely – for the team’s young South African sprinter, Ryan Gib­bons, at the Tour Down Un­der, be­fore switch­ing to as­sist Gi­a­como Niz­zolo at the Mid­dle Eastern races and the Giro d’Italia. “I was re­ally want­ing to have a good start to the year be­cause this year I had a cou­ple of op­er­a­tions on my si­nuses and it was go­ing to be full gas from the Tour Down Un­der un­til the Giro. The first half of the year was where it was all at; now it’s go­ing to be back-dated a bit.”

He added: “It was pretty mo­ti­vat­ing for me to change after so many years. Not say­ing that I needed ex­tra mo­ti­va­tion – but it’s re­ally mo­ti­vat­ing in it­self when you get new guys com­ing on the team.”

Renshaw’s bad luck casts a shadow over the team’s sea­son start. Last year, the


South Africa-reg­is­tered team was an­chored to the bot­tom of the World­Tour. Ben King took the team’s only World­Tour wins – two stages at the Vuelta - the first World­Tour level wins since the 2017 Tour.

But while the strug­gle to get re­sults took its toll on team morale, were it to con­tinue into 2019, it could be fa­tal for the squad. With the World­Tour re­forms set to come into play in 2020 in which teams will be rel­e­gated and pro­moted be­tween the World­Tour and ProConti di­vi­sions, team man­ager Dou­glas Ry­der has a job on his hands to drag the team up the rank­ings. “I don’t want to say that we’re fight­ing for our sur­vival in 2019, but the fact is we’ll be fight­ing for our sur­vival,” Ry­der said at the pre-sea­son camp in South Africa.

The team has taken steps to di­ver­sify the squad. Gi­a­como Niz­zolo, who scored 11 top-three places but just one win in 2018 was brought in to ease pres­sure on Cavendish. En­rico Gas­parotto (36) and Ro­man Kreuziger (32) ar­rive to bring grand tour ex­pe­ri­ence and climb­ing fire­power to the squad. And the team’s big­gest sign­ing was the 2018 Om­loop Het Nieuws­blad and Am­s­tel Gold Race win­ner, Michael Val­gren, who should boost the team’s chances across the Clas­sics.

How­ever Ry­der wants to hit the ground run­ning. “We re­ally want to start well with the Tour Down Un­der and we plan to send a re­ally good team there be­cause we know if we can get that tum­ble­weed rolling then hope­fully it will roll through the whole year.”

Of course, Renshaw was sup­posed to be a key part of that plan. “The start of the sea­son is just so im­por­tant now,” he said. “If you start well in Down Un­der you can lead the World­Tour, so the points def­i­nitely make it very im­por­tant.”

But if there was a sil­ver lin­ing, Renshaw said his in­jury was fairly straight­for­ward. “It’s go­ing to be some hard work, don’t get me wrong, but what the doc­tors have told me is that if I can look after my­self and do ev­ery­thing right, the in­jury shouldn’t pose any prob­lems. I should get back into con­di­tion quite fast so at the mo­ment I’ll keep the Giro as an ob­jec­tive.”

Renshaw and the team as a whole will hope that the squad’s mis­for­tune ends with his crash, oth­er­wise the team could find it­self strug­gling to stay in the top flight in 2020.

Renshaw’s 2019 has got to the worst start, as he broke his pelvis in a col­li­sion with a carSprinter Niz­zolo joins from Trek-Se­gafredo in a bid to bring in more vic­to­ries for the team

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