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by Matt de Neef
January 5, 2017
Photography by Matt de Neef
BUNINYONG, Australia (CT) – Rohan Dennis (BMC) will wear the green and gold of Australian time trial champion for another year after defending his national title in Buninyong today.
Dennis covered the 40.9km out-and-back course in a time of 50:59 (48.1km/h average), finishing an impressive 58 seconds ahead of two-time former winner Luke Durbridge (Orica-Scott) with Ben Dyball another 40 seconds back in third place.
Dennis was second fastest at the halfway mark, three seconds behind Durbridge, but powered through the tougher second half of the course in scorching temperatures to take the gold medal.
While Dennis’ winning margin was significant, he hadn’t been overly confident coming into the event. An illness in the lead-up caused a few restless nights and concerns about his ability to defend the title.
“Probably about five-six days ago I woke up at midnight and had a sore throat and I’ve just been on antibiotics since,” Dennis said. “I’ve kept it quiet and I’ve been telling myself that it was severe hayfever. But last night I had my sinuses and everything all blocked up.
“So I was stressing a little bit. I’m thinking that this is not a good … something bad’s going to happen and I’m not going to win tomorrow. But I woke up and it was a lot clearer and I was like ‘thank God for that!’”
While Dennis managed to go 14 seconds quicker than he did en route to victory a year earlier, he didn’t do too much training specifically for today’s event. Instead he’s been more focused on his gradual progression into a general classification rider.
“I’ve done a lot less time-trial-specific stuff and a lot more of the base training, trying to build that strength that’s a lower power so I can actually save energy when I’m sitting in the peloton,” said Dennis, who’s 3kg lighter than he was a year ago.
Image: John Veage/Cycling Australia
Earlier in today’s race it was former-Cannondale-pro Cameron Wurf who set the early marker of 55:13. He was soon usurped by Cannondale-Drapac recruit Brendan Canty who took up the hotseat with a time of 55:01. Former national champion Michael Hepburn (Orica-Scott) was next to take the lead with a 53:04, as the big names started to roll in.
Durbridge set a new best time, taking another minute off Hepburn with a 51:58, before Dennis, the last to start as defending champion, stopped the clock in 50:59.
While he’s clearly in impressive form, Dennis won’t ride the Nationals road race this Sunday.
“To be honest it’s never really going to go my way, as negative as that sounds,” Dennis said. “I think that it’s best I just go home. I cleared ahead and I’ll just sort of keep that one race day in the pocket.”
Dennis will instead return to training ahead of the Santos Tour Down Under. It’s a race Dennis won in 2015, but in 2017 he’ll ride in support of his teammate and fellow Australian Richie Porte.
From there he’ll ride the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race before heading to Europe and building towards the Giro d’Italia where he hopes to start learning the craft of being a Grand Tour GC rider.
“This year’s a lot about learning and that might mean that I actually don’t get any results this year,” Dennis said. “I might look like I’m completely crap, to be honest, but it’s what I’m going to learn. I might fail, like really fail when it comes to the Giro, but it’s all about learning how to look after myself for three weeks and then just make those small steps over the next couple of years.”
Earlier in the afternoon Callum Scotson (BMC Development Team) won the U23 men’s time trial for the second year in a row, ahead of Robert Stannard and Michael Storer. In the elite women’s event Katrin Garfoot (Orica-Scott) also claimed her second consecutive Australian time trial title.