Rohan Dennis still expects to ride for Bahrain-Merida next season, despite his surprise withdrawal from the 2019 Tour de France.
World time trial champion Dennis was at the centre of a media storm in July when he stepped off the bike on stage 12 of the race, with his team left in the dark as to why.
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Dennis hasn’t raced since, but has now given his first interview since the controversy to Australian newspaper The Advertiser as he looks to defend his time trial title at the Yorkshire 2019 World Championships later this month, where he has confirmed he will ride an unbranded time trial bike.
The 29-year-old still declined to explain in detail why he had abandoned the Tour, but said the backlash was “blown out of proportion.”
“It wasn’t pre-planned, it wasn’t a stunt, I was talking to my manager before the start and we agreed on finishing the stage and deal with everything else after but I knew that by pulling out in the short term I’d have to deal with some s***, some backlash — I didn’t expect it to be this big because it’s a bike race — but long term it was the best thing for me to do.
“What I did was pull out of a race, it’s been blown out of proportion so much that people have slammed me for being everything under the sun.”
Dennis abandoned the Tour with 84km left to race of stage 12 on the road to Bagnères-de-Biggore, and refused to speak to team management when they called him during the stage to find out why.
Rumours suggested that Dennis pulled out because he was unhappy with bikes and team kit ahead of the time trial the following day, but this has not been confirmed by the rider or team.
In the interview with Adelaide-based newspaper The Advertiser, Dennis said he has not publicly criticised any sponsor or the team, adding that he has left Twitter to avoid the public response and speculation.
He added that he spoke with the team after pulling out of the race and that there were “no hard feelings.”
“The whole stage I was thinking about everything and it was a battle in my own head for a fair chunk of the day,” he said. “And if someone is not in the right headspace in a team environment, if someone is not happy, maybe it’s also the best thing for the team, and I spoke to the guys at the hotel that night and there were no hard feelings.”
Next on the schedule for Dennis is the time trial at the Yorkshire Worlds on September 25, where he will race an unbranded bike with parts from the Australian national team, saying that is what the national squad feel is best for his body shape and position.
He added that is physically in great shape and put out the best power numbers he has ever done during a recent test, but said missing the Vuelta a España means he hasn’t had the intensity of riding he would like in preparation for the 54km TT from Northallerton to Harrogate.
Dennis is contracted with Bahrain-Merida until 2020 and said the current plan is to remain with the team next season.