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World time trial champion Rohan Dennis has shelved his ambitions of becoming a Grand Tour GC contender after saying his battle to shed weight bordered on an eating disorder.
“Last year I was thinking, ‘You know what? It’s probably something that physically I can do – be a Grand Tour rider – and I have the capabilities,'” Dennis told The Adelaide Advertiser. “But I just don’t know if I want to go down the road, and I’ll be honest with you, I started to eat and not eat and was on that slippery slope of a complex or disorder.”
Dennis, who joins Ineos on a two-year deal this season after Bahrain-Merida terminated his contract in September, first made his GC aspirations public during the 2016 season, at the time saying that he wanted to give himself four years to try to develop into a contender for three-week races.
Since then, although he has enjoyed plenty of success in one-week races and Grand Tour stages, many of Dennis’s Grand Tour starts have been derailed by crashes or other issues. In 2019, he pulled out of the Tour de France on the eve of the time trial. Now, Dennis has decided to call time on the GC plans. He told The Advertiser that the weight loss side of his project to develop into a Grand Tour contender hindered his ability to train and added mental stress.
“It got to a point where I was putting on weight, I would have one beer but then feel guilty and wouldn’t eat at training the next day, so then I couldn’t train properly, I wouldn’t do a good session, eat minimal and bonk again,” he said. “Then you think you’re shit, you feel down and you keep going.”
He explained that his struggles persisted right up until the final few days before Yorkshire Worlds.
“I got down to 68kg just before Worlds but that was due to stress, and I was eating between 100 and 300g of chocolate every night on top of all my other food,” he said.
“I ended up having to get on creatine and whey protein powder to bring me back up to my time trial weight, which is 70 to 71 kilograms. I’m still lean at that weight but I’m [now] not looking in the mirror and thinking ‘you’re too skinny,’ and that’s where I was at before Worlds.”
Having secured his second straight world TT title in Yorkshire and then signed on to join Ineos, Dennis has decided that he will focus on his strengths from here on out.
In the 2020 season, he will have plenty of opportunities to put his engine on display. Dennis will race the Giro d’Italia, which features three time trials, and then built towards the Olympic time trial before trying to defend his rainbow jersey in the discipline at Worlds in Switzerland.
He will take on those challenges in a better place mentally that he was while he was still fighting to shed weight in pursuit of his Grand Tour goal, although as he told The Advertiser, being an elite athlete always comes with certain stresses.
“I think a lot of the time it’s looked at as a privileged position and as sportspeople we are,” Dennis said. “But a lot of people ignore the fact that it’s a high pressure situation, we are humans, we’re not in a circus show where you pay to watch and you can laugh if we screw up.”