Rohan Dennis is set to play an important early role for Australia in Sunday’s UCI Road World Championship after his senior time trial debut earlier this week.
The Olympic team pursuit silver medalist finished 12th in the 57.9km race against the clock on Wednesday and has taken confidence from the performance against an all-star line-up with Tony Martin claiming his third consecutive title and Bradley Wiggins and Fabian Cancellara rounding out the podium.
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Dennis will likely support 2011 Tour de France champion Cadel Evans as well as Richie Porte in the hilly 272.2km road race in Florence, Italy on Sunday.
The 23-year-old entered his first senior world titles on the back of the Tour of Alberta where he won a stage en route to overall honours. He turned professional with Garmin-Sharp this season and made his Tour debut, alongside an older cast, before withdrawing during stage nine.
“It’s been bucket loads of experience this year. It’s been a lot off the back, more so off the back of the bunch, but there’s been a lot of good times as well just being picked for races like the Tour and wearing yellow jerseys,” Dennis told Cycling Weekly.
“I got back from the Tour and had a week off. I didn’t even want to look at the bike.
I tried to completely separate myself from racing, other than watching a bit, cleared the head, got back on the bike and started rebuilding for my time in Colorado, and that was a big block of altitude. I was struggling a bit through those races because I’ve never raced at altitude – I’ve only trained. After those races I started to feel pretty good on the bike, went to Alberta and the rest is history.”
Dennis, a former national under-23 champion, was pleased with his first hit-out in the senior time trial ranks where he had been aiming for a top five to 10 result on a flat course, which was 20km longer than any he has competed on before.
“That was my ambition but at the same time it’s hopefully just about building experience for years to come,” he said.
“The first 20 or 30 minutes there was things going through my head, like, this is starting to hurt. I thought just put your head down, stop thinking about it, don’t look up, try and zone out. I did that fairly well and it was only the last 15K I really started to come unstuck. The last 15K was about not thinking how far it is but find a point on the road, aim for that, get to that and then think about the next point.
“[The] course can suit anyone as long as they can get really aero and stay very single-minded all day.”
The hilly elite men’s road world championship starts in Lucca at 10.10am CET on Sunday and includes 10 laps of a punchy 16km circuit.