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by Sophie Smith
April 29, 2016
Photography by Cor Vos
Rohan Dennis is eager to return to racing at the Tour de Yorkshire on Friday following a frustratingly long lay-off through illness.
The 25-year-old is under no pressure to perform for BMC Racing at the three-day competition but is hopeful to turn the tables on a so-far measly European campaign.
Dennis has clocked fewer than five race days since February with sinusitis ruling the reigning Australian time trial champion out of Paris-Nice and an ensuing virus forcing him to abandon the Tour of Catalunya in March.
“I really haven’t properly raced since, you could say, the Tour Down Under,” Dennis said of his program. “A one-day race here and there isn’t really racing.”
Dennis has been focused more on a sound recovery than making up for lost time since withdrawing from the second stage of the Tour of Catalunya just over a month ago.
“After [Catalunya] I was always going to have a break in some sense anyway, just an easy week, and then rebuild through Yorkshire, do the Tour of California, Criterium du Dauphine and then hopefully the Tour [de France]. So nothing has changed, but I’m pretty happy to be at a race again,” he said.
The driven South Australian has observed a purposefully conservative training schedule in his return to fitness, which he knew was necessary but found difficult.
“When I left Catalunya it was five days off completely, on antibiotics for seven or eight days and then I went pretty well full back to training but slowly. My coach [Neal Henderson] was saying a long ride was two-and-a-half hours and I was like, ‘shoot me,’” Dennis said.
“I stuck to it just because I knew I couldn’t push it too early but the first ride back I was doing between 160 to 180-watt average and my heart rate was pushing 140. So that’s really high and that cracked me.”
Dennis had designs on the prologue at Paris-Nice in March, and with good reason – he has high hopes of representing Australia in the race against the clock at the Rio Olympics later this year. Instead watching the Paris-Nice prologue from his base in Spain, the Tour de France stage winner tempered his frustration with a 3,200-piece Lego construct.
“I did that during Paris-Nice to keep my mind active and away from thinking ‘I’m at home sick, this sucks and I just missed out on a prologue I was training for’,” he said.
Dennis will enter Yorkshire on the back of a successful team training camp at altitude on Mt Etna with eight team-mates.
“It was a big two-week block and I bounced out of that pretty well,” he said. “I could be good here but if I’m not, so be it. If I am good and the opportunity rises [at Yorkshire] I’ll take it. It hasn’t been a great year so anything to get my confidence back up I’ll take.”
The Tour de Yorkshire begins today with a flat 136.5km stage from Beverley to Settle with wintry weather and a kick in the final 10km potentially able to upset the pure sprinters.
Sophie Smith is an experienced journalist and television reporter for Australia and UK press. She was roped into the 2010 UCI Road World Championships and has specialised in pro cycling since. She lived in London for two years and has travelled all over the world covering the sport. You can follow Sophie on Twitter at @SophieSmith86.