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   Sep 22

Tour de France: Next challenge for Rohan Dennis after time trial win – show he can climb

Aussie Rohan Dennis proudly wears the race leader’s yellow jersey on the podium after winning the first stage of the Tour de France. Photo: ERIC GAILLARDStage by stage coverage More Tour de France 
Nanjing Night Net

UTRECHT: By producing a brilliant ride to win the stage one time trial of the Tour de France, take the race leader’s yellow jersey and declare – and not for the first time – that his career ambition is to win a grand tour overall, Rohan Dennis created a massive immediate challenge for himself.

Not that the 25 year-old Australian will baulk at showing after  his success in Saturday’s 13.8km time trial in the Dutch city of Utrecht, that he has the climbing prowess he will need to if he is to challenge for a win in the Giro d’Italia, Tour or Vuelta a Espana.

Dennis knows that opportunity is still some way off, as he is regarded at his BMC team as a work in progress in that grand plan.

But what this Tour will offer him is a chance to show how far he has developed in his climbing when the time does come for him to help his American team leader Tejay van Garderen in the mountains.

Dennis already has left an imprint on many with his climbing ability in other races, but having declared his ambition on Saturday, all eyes – rather than those closer to the sport – will be on him to see how well he climbs to help van Garderen in the Pyrenees and Alps.

Dennis understandably said he wanted to defend the yellow jersey for several days, or up to the stage nine team time trial; but how far Dennis continues in the race leader’s jersey is not as critical a marker of his potential at this point in his career as to how he climbs later.

For Dennis, the seventh Australian to claim the yellow jersey, his priority is to help van Garderen should the American survive the next hazardous stages in the Netherlands, Belgium and northern France.

But BMC team president Jim Ochowicz said Dennis showed at a recent high altitude training camp near Girona in Spain where he lives, that he is climbing better than ever.

Before Dennis unleashed his record Tour time trial at an average speed of 55.446kmh to win in 14minutes 56 seconds – beating second placed Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) by 5s and Switzerland’s third placed Fabian Cancellara (Trek) by 6s – Ochowicz also cited the Criterium du Dauphine where van Garderen placed second behind British 2013 Tour winner, Chris Froome (Sky).

“He is climbing great. People don’t even think he is climbing,” said Ochowicz of Dennis whose season includes the Tour Down Under in South Australian in January and in February, and the world track hour record which has been beaten twice and is now held by British rider Bradley Wiggins.

After the hour record, Dennis followed a deliberate and steady return to peak form.

But after the Tour’s team time trial in which his role will be a crucial one, Dennis intends using that form to help van Garderen as much as he can.

Dennis’s “main goal” after the team time trial will be to “switch to a climbers role”. “Hopefully I can be there when it is crunch time and not just get dropped or help to the bottom of the climb, but to help on the climbs as well,” he said.

If Dennis achieves that, he will help convince those who heard his grand tour ambitions on Saturday that he has the time trialling and climbing ability to win one.

It would also book-end a near-perfect Tour for Dennis, who he did not finish his last and only Tour – that being, the 2013 edition when he was forced out by injury after eight stages.

Dennis believes in van Garderen’s goal – to make the podium – and regards as a blessing van Garderen not being classed in the “Big Four” of the Italian Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Briton Chris Froome (Sky), Spaniard Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Colombian Nairo Quintana (Movistar)

“‘The Big Four’ … that just means more pressure on them,” said Dennis.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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