Rider updates: Mark Cavendish, Mark Renshaw and John Degenkolb

It’s time for the VeloVoices to catch up with their respective riders to watch for 2013. I’m following the fortunes of three former HTC-Highroad sprinters: 2011 world champion Mark Cavendish, his former lead-out man Mark Renshaw and 2012 Vuelta sprint sensation John Degenkolb. Here’s a quick overview of how each has fared over the last few months.

Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step)

Image courtesy of Omega Pharma-Quick Step

Image: Omega Pharma-Quick Step

Results:

  • Won five stages at Giro d’Italia and won the points classification.
  • Two 3rd places and 3rd overall at Ster ZLM Toer.
  • Won British national championships road race.
  • Won two stages at Tour de France, one 2nd and two 3rd places. 2nd in points classification.
  • Won one stage at Tour of Denmark.

WorldTour ranking: 20th, 161 pts.

Mark Cavendish’s last four months have been bookended with triumph and (by his standards) disaster at the year’s first two grand tours.

He warmed up for the Giro at the Tour de Romandie, quietly putting some kilometres back into his legs before climbing off on stage four. In Italy he was at his dominant best, winning all five sprints he contested – including the first and last stages – to collect the points jersey which eluded him by a single point last year and completing his set of points jerseys at all three grand tours.

His preparation for the Tour de France was similarly low-key. He returned to defend his first career GC win at the Ster ZLM Toer, where he had a couple of third places and finished third overall. Then he won the road race at the British national championships for the first time, meaning he will sport the red, white and blue bands of British champion for the next 12 months.

However, by the rarefied standards he has set in recent years, his Tour was a disappointment. Peter Sagan dominated the green jersey competition from the off, and Marcel Kittel outgunned him in the bunch sprints 4-2. A pre-Tour bout of bronchitis didn’t help, but perhaps more telling was the fact that the final stage in Paris was his 84th day of racing in 2013 – a whopping total in itself, and 21 more than Kittel.

He made no excuses, though, saying this after Kittel’s third victory on stage 12:

Since the Tour he has barely slowed down, though, racing in last week’s Tour of Denmark – winning the final stage in directeur sportif Brian Holm’s home town of Frederiksberg, attending Bernie Eisel’s wedding and demonstrating a keen photographer’s eye by joining the image-sharing service Instagram.

Having now raced 89 days in 2013 – a full season in anyone’s book – he’s now taking a few weeks’ rest before returning at the World Ports Classic at the end of the month and, presumably, the Tour of Britain in mid-September.

Mark Renshaw (Belkin, formerly Blanco)

Image: Blanco

Image: Blanco

Results:

  • One 2nd place at Tour of Poland.

WorldTour ranking: 122nd, 10 pts.

In my last update in April I commented that “it’s hard to escape the feeling that time is running out for Renshaw at Blanco” and, after failing to capitalise on his few opportunities since then, it came as no surprise that he has announced he will be joining Omega Pharma-Quick Step next year, where he will reunite with Mark Cavendish to bolster his sprint train.

Renshaw’s best chance of adding to his lone 2013 win at February’s Clasica de Almeria came at the sprinter-friendly Tour of Turkey (although he was detailed primarily to lead out Theo Bos). However, he abandoned after being caught at the epicentre of a huge crash near the end of stage two, suffering concussion and a broken collarbone and losing a tooth.

He returned at the Ronde van Zeeland and then the Tour de Suisse, which he abandoned on stage seven, before resuming racing at last week’s Tour of Poland, where he finished second on stage three behind Thor Hushovd. He’s look forward to 2014 but remains focussed on the rest of his 2013 campaign, which looks set to include the Vuelta a Espana.

John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano)

Image courtesy of Argos-Shimano

Image: Argos-Shimano

Results:

  • Won one stage at Giro d’Italia.
  • One 4th place at Tour de Suisse.
  • 3rd at German national championships road race.
  • One 2nd place at Tour de France.

WorldTour ranking: 75th, 37 pts.

Aside from one huge victory, the middle third of John Degenkolb’s season has been as low-key as the first. But what a win it was: a huge final-kilometre chase-down to snatch victory virtually on the line at stage five of the Giro before withdrawing four days later citing fatigue.

Following a fourth place at the Tour de Suisse and third in the road race at the German nationals, he joined Marcel Kittel as part of a two-pronged Argos-Shimano attack at the Tour de France. While his compatriot focussed on the flat stages, winning four, he targeted the lumpier classics-style finishes but was no match for Peter Sagan. A second place on stage seven was his only top-ten finish, although he did plenty of work in the dominant Argos train on behalf of Kittel.

He hasn’t raced since the Tour and will also sit out the Vuelta, where he won five stages last year. Still, he doesn’t seem to mind enjoying a little down-time:

Previous update: 9th April.

Websites: Mark Cavendish, Mark Renshaw, John Degenkolb

Twitter: @MarkCavendish, @Mark_Renshaw, @johndegenkolb

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