Rohan Dennis answers his critics
One of the biggest media storms at this year’s Tour de France, which lest we forget was one of the most engaging in terms of racing that we’ve had in years, was Rohan Dennis’ mysterious abandonment during stage 12.
The rumour mills began to turn as Bahrain-Merida sent out mixed messages and the Australian deleted his social media.
Two months later, however, the 29-year-old rolled out of the start hut in Northallerton and put in a dominant performance to retain the rainbow bands for another year.
Across the line, Rohan Dennis tapped his helmet with his finger, either telling people who had questioned his mental resilience to explain the minute he had put into the second best time of Remco Evenepoel, or perhaps making a point about the equipment he was using.
Already riding a different bike to that of his standard-issue Bahrain-Merida machine, he was also wearing a different helmet for the 54km time trial, and the whole saga is believed to be at the centre of disagreements between Dennis and the Bahraini squad.
Will we now see the Australian move to another WorldTour team for 2020? Or will he take a sabbatical year to focus on the Tokyo Olympics? We’ll have to wait and see.
Another day to remember for Evenepoel…
Is 2019 the year of Julian Alaphilippe, Mathieu van der Poel or Remco Evenepoel? Maybe we’ll have to wait for the culmination of the Worlds road race on Sunday to decide once and for all, but the 19-year-old Belgian put in a time trial performance to further the case that he is the reason this season will be remembered.
The youngest competitor in the field, he flew out of the blocks, first cheekily adjusting his socks away from the reach of the UCI commissaires before setting the fastest times at each check point as well as at the finish line.
Had it not been for Dennis, Evenepoel would have decimated a field stacked with time trialling talent and experience, and would have gone down as one of the most remarkable performances put in at a World Championships.
The silver will keep the young Belgian hungry, though, having already picked up the European time trial title as well as winning the Clásica San Sébastian. We will now have to wait to see what he can do in 2020, where he will no longer be able to fly under the radar as a surprise package.
…but a day to forget for the other Belgians
While Evenepoel rode to his impressive second place, Belgian fans had also placed hope in two-time European champion and Hour Record holder Victor Campenaerts.
The 27-year-old was the second to last rider to start, and trailed Dennis by just 20 seconds at the first check point when disaster struck.
Television cameras saw Campenaerts stopped on the road receiving assistance from a mechanic and displaying injuries from a crash. Dennis soon cruised past him, having easily eaten up the minute and a half gap between the two riders, a mental blow to the Belgian.
Campenaerts then needed another bike change, as any chance of a decent result evaporated on sunnier Yorkshire roads than we’ve become accustomed to, eventually finishing in 11th place, 2-50 down on Dennis.
Brits put in performance to be proud of
While the Brits didn’t harbour any serious ambitions of taking the title, especially after Geraint Thomas’ lack of form ruled him out of the proceedings, the home nation could still be confident of solid rides from two talented riders.
John Archibald, who was drafted in at the last minute as Thomas’ replacement, already had a bronze medal from the mixed relay TTT earlier in the week, and set up shop once again in the hot seat, having recorded the best time early on.
Relaxed, smiling and waving at the crowd, he was soon displaced, but then Alex Dowsett blew Luke Durbridge’s (Australia) time away to continue the party for the Brits on the podium.
Dowsett eventually finished in fifth place, helped by Campenaerts’ misfortune and Roglič’s tired legs, which is a result to be proud of, having also recently secured a record sixth national time trial title. This performance will round off a good year for the 30-year-old, whose future hangs in the balance with Katusha-Alpecin’s continued existence up in the air.
Primož Roglič pays price for Vuelta victory
Primož Roglič was one of the pre-race favourites to take the rainbow bands, but soon into his tilt it became apparent the Slovenian would not be troubling the top of the classification.
The 2019 Vuelta a España victor was clearly paying for his efforts in Spain where he picked up his first ever Grand Tour victory, and was already 16 seconds behind Archibald’s time after just 16km.
The Jumbo-Visma rider was eventually caught by Rohan Dennis, who had started three minutes in front of the Australian, with pride forcing him to stamp on the pedals and not lose Dennis’ wheel up a short incline on the course.
Maybe Roglič could have backed off on the finishing straight, allowing the champion elect to collect the plaudits and finish line photos on his own, but the two finished nearly side-by-side in Harrogate.
Roglič may be disappointed with his 12th place finish but will hardly lose sleep knowing his red jersey from the Vuelta is safely stored away, dreaming of future Grand Tour victories after the winter break.