Bahrain-Merida have been left “confused” and disappointed” after Rohan Dennis abandoned the Tour de France with no explanation.
Australian Dennis stepped off his bike in the feed zone with 80km left to race of stage 12, telling his team he didn’t want to talk when they approached him.
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The 29-year-old was taken to the Bahrain bus at the finish by a team car, but management say they still have no idea why he abandoned.
Dennis, the reigning world time trial champion, was a pre-race favourite for the stage 13 TT in Pau, and he has appeared to be in stellar form.
Speaking to a large group of journalists after the stage, head sports director Gorazd Štangelj said: “We’re also confused. I’m disappointed about what happened with Rohan today because we expected the effort from him tomorrow.
“It was his decision to stop today in the feed zone. We tried to speak with him. We stopped the car and tried to find a solution to what’s going on, but he just said ‘I don’t want to talk’ and abandoned the race.”
Bahrain-Merida released a cryptic statement on social media, which read: “Our priority is the welfare of all our riders so we will launch an immediate investigation but will not be commenting further until we have established what has happened to Rohan Dennis.
“In the meantime, we continue to support our riders who are mid-race.”
As the race continued to unfold, Dennis was seen entering the Bahrain bus at the finish.
Shortly after, he was escorted by his agent to the finish area, but refused to comment on why he had abandoned.
Štangelj said: “When we got to the feed zone, we saw his bike behind our feed zone car, but it was too late for us to stop and because we were on the parcours I couldn’t turn and go back. We called the car at the feed zone and asked for Rohan to come on the phone, but he said he didn’t want to talk right now.”
When asked by journalists if Dennis’s form was the problem, Štangelj said “I think his condition is good enough to perform in the Tour de France,” adding “For sure it’s nothing to do with his physical condition.”
Štangelj said he had told Dennis to save his energy for Friday’s time trial during the stage, so it wasn’t anything to do with his role in the race.
The sports director was also asked if it was a problem with his mental health, to which Štangelj responded “It’s difficult to answer this question, but I’ve never had a hard discussion with him. We’ve always managed to find a solution when it was needed.”
He was also asked if Dennis was unhappy with his bike or equipment, but Štangelj said as far as he knew this was not the reason.
Štangelj added: “He’s a special guy, let’s say that. All the champions are. He’s really 100 per cent when he really wants something and it’s difficult to make everyone happy at every single moment.”
“He’s a guy who wants to have everything at 100 per cent and it’s not easy to have everything 100 per cent in the race.”
He concluded: “It’s too early to talk about consequences. Now is the moment to clear things and make decisions for the future.”