One of the features of the itinerary for the 103rd Tour de France that the organisers are quite excited about is the fact that the first time trial comes the day after the Mont Ventoux stage. There’s a big mountain to climb today, albeit a little abbreviated compared to the original plans, but we took a moment in Montpellier to speak to a TT specialist about the challenge of tomorrow’s stage.
Rob Arnold caught up with Rohan Dennis to find out if he expects to challenge for a win in the first of two TTs in this year’s Tour.
The 26-year-old holds the record for the fastest TT ever in the Tour de France, he’s held the hour record, he has been the Australian time trial champion… but he’s not certain if his current form will allow him to excel in the 37.5km test in stage 13 on Friday.
Dennis led the Tour de France for a day last year but in 2016, after 2,125km of racing he’s 151st on GC, almost two hours behind Chris Froome. He hopes one day to be a GC rider but this year his responsibility is to try and help both Richie Porte and Tejay van Garderen chase a place on the podium in Paris.
Below is a quick Q&A with Rohan Dennis…
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RIDE: Obviously the time trial is the big thing to talk about. Do you get an opportunity for yourself or is it not really about that at this year’s Tour?
Rohan Dennis: “I’m going to go 100 percent but that opportunity may be hindered by the amount of work I’ve done in the previous 12 stages.
“Anything can happen tomorrow; I might wake up and feel a lot better.
“As a personal goal of my own, maybe my head will switch on a little bit more and I may find that I’ve been subconsciously holding back a little bit on some of these days leading up to this point in the Tour, but it definitely doesn’t feel like that.
“I’m not running around saying, ‘Look, I’m here to absolutely annihilate this time trial.’
“It’s going to be a challenge to win and so it should be, it’s the Tour de France.”
Yesterday’s stage was really quite exceptional to watch on television. It was hard to track everyone; where were you and how did you manage yourself in the crosswinds of stage 11?
“You didn’t see me unless the camera was off the back, I guess. Ha! It was at one point – I was with [Thibaut] Pinot about 60km to go – but we got back on to the peloton.
“There were a couple of times I made it to the front but when it’s that hectic, and if your legs aren’t good, you generally don’t have that fight in you. You think, ‘Look, what’s the point? I’m not going to be able to help much anyway… I’m struggling just to follow wheels near the front of the bunch.’
“I don’t think it’s necessary for me to be throwing hooks while I’m at the front. It’s already pretty hectic, so I thought I’d keep out of the way of our own GC guys and don’t put them in danger. If they need anything, I’ll be there but it was a tough day. I won’t lie.”
You’ve done a few pursuits in your time but yesterday’s finale was an interesting iteration with the four of them – Peter Sagan, Chris Froome, Maciej Bodnar and Geraint Thomas – up ahead. It was a formidable quartet. Do you think Froomey’s going to jump on the track now? He can climb, he can descend, he can ride the crosswinds, he can sprint… what’s next?
“I think yesterday was all about positioning to be honest.
“He’s in great form, Froomey, but there are a lot of guys who had to try and pull him back who were working all day and sitting in the wind all day. So, as impressive as it was – and I’m not taking anything away from Chris – if he tried that at the start of the stage when everyone was fresh, there would have been guys who’d have laughed.
“But to be able to do that, you have to have the craft to sit in the bunch, not hit the wind all day, and still have the engine to go with guys like Sagan. It’s not easy, so hats off to him – that was an impressive ride.”