Rohan Dennis has spoken for the first time since his mysterious exit from the Tour de France this summer calling it the ‘toughest period’ of his career.
The Australian abandoned the Tour on Stage 12 to Bagneres-de-Bigorre mid-stage without a clear reason 80km into the stage.
The time trial World Champion then travelled back to the race finish in a team car before leaving the race that evening without confirming why he had abandoned.
Rumours immediately circulated that the time trial specialist left the race due to an ongoing dispute with his Bahrain-Merida team regarding the bike, wheels and kit he was set to use on Stage 13’s individual TT in Pau.
However, talking to Australian newspaper The Advertiser, Dennis spoke of how incorrect speculation around his abandonment saw him ‘slammed for being everything under the sun’ and that his decision to step off during the stage was not pre-meditated.
‘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 shit, 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,’ Dennis told The Advertiser.
‘The whole stage I was thinking about everything and it was a battle in my own head for a fair chunk of the day. 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.’
After speaking to his teammates, Dennis left the Tour with sports psychologist David Spindler, driving back to Andorra.
Once there, Dennis took four days off the bike, ‘to get my head around everything’ he said, before flying out to inspect the time trial course at next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Dennis did fall short of stating whether issues surrounding kit contributed to the incident but it was confirmed that the Australian national team will provide Dennis with an unmarked bike when he sets out to defend his World title in Yorkshire in two weeks’ time.
While the 29-year-old has yet to race since the Tour, he is confident that he will be able to defend his rainbow jersey in Yorkshire later this month.
He spoke of how he produced the ‘best numbers I’ve done ever’ in a recent test and that he is in the same physical shape as this time last year. Dennis will now head to Yorkshire for a recon of the technical Yorkshire course before competing on Thursday 26th September.
Whether Dennis will continue with Bahrain-Merida, however, is still unclear. The Australian has yet to race for the team since the Tour and had hoped to race the ongoing Vuelta a Espana as pre-Worlds prep but was not selected.
He is unsure as to whether he will turn out in team colours again in 2019 but did state that he has ‘only tried to improve the team’ and that, at this moment in time, will be racing there in 2020.