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Speaking in the run up to the Santos Tour Down Under, last year’s winner Rohan Dennis has said he is on course physically to challenge for what would be a record second straight victory in the event.
“To be honest, we have a good team. Nationals showed that I am still going well, the same as last year if not a little bit better,” he stated.
“But there is still obviously tactical parts of the race, the Tour Down Under, where I can come unstuck and lose the race pretty quickly. I have still to keep myself on my toes and not do anything stupid each day. But the form is there.”
Dennis will return as part of the BMC Racing Team and will be joined by the rider who finished second overall behind him last year, Richie Porte.
With Porte now a BMC Racing Team rider, the American squad will have two captains in the event. He believes that’s an advantage over others.
“We have got two bulls to fight. I think that is our greatest strength at the moment, whereas a lot of other teams have one or possibly two. We have got Richie if I fail, and if Richie fails, myself.
“We will play both of our cards and whoever wins, wins.”
Dennis describes the race as his home event and acknowledges that he knows the roads better than most. However, given that many others have ridden the race in the past and the roads are broadly similar, he believes that there won’t necessarily be an advantage for him.
What he will have is a little extra motivation because of that, and also because of his status as defending champion.
“It is my home town, it is where I grew up. It is my first WorldTour race. The first WorldTour race that I won as well, so it is pretty close to me,” he explained.
“And obviously it is a big race for Australia. The Tour Down Under is the only WorldTour race in the southern hemisphere and we feel proud to actually be here, let alone to be told that we are one of the favourites to actually win it.”
He’s psyched to try to take the overall classification again, but shrugs off any talk of pressure to take two in a row.
“Ah, I don’t care,” he said. “It can put the pressure on for someone else, that’s for sure. They are going to play card games. I am going to play my card games. I am not going to stand here and say I am the favourite.
“There are guys out there who have got just as good form, maybe even better, and they are trying to release that pressure from them and put it back on me.”
As regards those competitors, he names Porte, Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge), Jack Bobridge (Trek Factory Racing) plus Cameron Meyer and Nathan Haas (Team Dimension Data) as some of the top rivals.
He notes that those and other Australians are likely fitter than other riders at present due to the season, and also because they can handle the heat better than most.
“Generally an Australian will be in that top three, that is for sure.”
He’d love to be there, but isn’t getting too stressed out.
“I am going to feel the pressure I put on myself,” he said. “I want to win again and try to make history, but if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen.”