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by Matt de Neef
January 7, 2016
Photography by Con Chronis
BUNINYONG, Australia (CT) – Rohan Dennis (BMC) has won the elite men’s time trial at the 2016 Australian Road National Championships, finishing ahead of new teammate Richie Porte and former rower Sean Lake (Avanti IsoWhey).
Dennis started the race as the hot favourite having finished second behind Richie Porte in last year’s race and having had the best year of his career since then. In 2015 Dennis won the Santos Tour Down Under, the USA Pro Challenge and the prologue individual time trial at the Tour de France.
In today’s time trial Dennis posted the fastest time at both of the intermediate time checks out on course (14km and 26km) before storming home to complete the 40.9km course in a time of 51 minutes and 13 seconds (average 47.9km/h). Porte was 39 seconds slower while Sean Lake – a two-time winner of the Grafton to Inverell – was a somewhat unexpected podium finisher, stopping the clock a further 56 seconds behind Porte.
“It’s always a dream to win the Aussie Nationals,” Dennis said after the race. “I’ve won the U23s; now I’ve got a senior medal and to be able to wear the green and gold at every time trial this year is a true honour.”
The win comes as something of a relief to Dennis who has been among the favourites in this race for several years, but has been unable to reach the top step. Two years ago he was among those expected to challenge for the win but was thrown from his bike by a freak gust of wind mid-race. In 2015 Dennis went out too hard and paid for his effort, fading in the second half and finishing second. This year he got it right.
“This year I think I went out a lot easier and came home stronger, so it’s a whole different feeling — you still have some energy … at the finish,” Dennis said. “You’re not 30 minutes [at] your absolute max.”
While the result was a satisfying one for Dennis, he’s more focused on Sunday’s Nationals road race. Dennis and Porte will line up as BMC’s only two representatives but the pair are hoping for a good result.
“Obviously Sunday’s still to come and there’s another jersey so we can’t celebrate tonight but we can have a little bit of a celebration and say ‘job well done’ for Thursday,” Dennis said.
“It’s going to be a bit of a numbers game obviously, like always, with [Orica-]GreenEdge. They’ve got a lot of strong riders. But we’ve got Richie and I … and Richie I are strong and I’m sure we can play a good card and hopefully take another green and gold.”
Later this month Dennis will set out to defend his Santos Tour Down Under title but it’s the Rio Olympics that will be the South Australian’s biggest focus.
“Rio – that’s my big goal this year, the time trial. Then there’s the Qatar Worlds time trial there as well,” Dennis said. “[I’m] Really looking at turning more towards the GC side of things after Rio. So I’ve got one more year of pure time trialling.”
Earlier in the afternoon Kat Garfoot (Orica-AIS) won the elite women’s individual time trial while Callum Scotson bested his brother Miles in the U23 men’s time trial.
After a rest day tomorrow the Australian Road National Championships continue on Saturday with the U23 men’s road race before the elite women’s and elite men’s road races on Sunday.