Rohan Dennis said it was “the right decision to withdraw” from the Tour de France but has not offered up a full explanation.
The reigning time trial world champion left his team baffled when he stepped off the bike with 80km left to race of stage 12, refusing to offer an explanation to his sports directors.
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Bahrain-Merida bosses said they were “confused and disappointed”, as Dennis had been in phenomenal form and was targeting the only solo time trial of the 2019 the following day.
In a statement released late on Thursday (July 18), the 29-year-old said: “I am very disappointed to leave the race at this point. Obviously the individual time trial tomorrow had been a big goal for me and the team, but given my current feeling it was the right decision to withdraw earlier today.
“I wish my team-mates the very best for the remainder of the race and would like to thank all the Tour de France fans who cheered for me, at home and on the roadside, since Brussels.
“I will hopefully be back competing in this great race again over the coming seasons.”
Dennis stepped off the bike in the feed zone of stage 12, from Toulouse to Bagnères-de-Bigorre, the first mountain test in the Pyrenees of the Tour de France 2019.
He was taken to the finish by team car and when his sports directors tried to speak with him he said he didn’t want to talk.
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.
Head sports director at Bahrain-Merida, Gorazd Štangelj, spoke with journalists after the stage but could offer no explanation why Dennis had stepped off.
Štangelj said Dennis’s form wasn’t the problem, as far as he was aware it wasn’t an issue with equipment, but he was unable to answer if it Dennis’s mental health may have played a part.
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.”