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"I never aim for a top 5 or to finish second or third but I'm always confident that I'd win and I wasn't confident that I'd beat Tony Martin or Fabian Cancellara this time. But I expected myself to win."

Photo: Sirotti

ROHAN DENNIS

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TOUR DE FRANCE

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04.07.2015 @ 20:23 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

BMC Racing Team's Rohan Dennis piloted his BMC timemachine TM01 to the fastest average speed in Tour de France history in winning Saturday's opening stage individual time trial.

Dennis averaged 55.45 kilometers an hour over the 13.8-km course through the streets of Utrecht, The Netherlands, to take the win by five seconds and earn the first yellow jersey of the three-week race. His average speed surpassed the previous Tour de France record mark set by Chris Boardman 21 years ago.

As the 38th of 198 riders to start, Dennis was in the "hot seat" for more than two-and-a-half-hours.

"It was nerve-wracking watching the screen," Dennis said. "I didn't expect to go that fast time-wise. When I got to back to the bus, I was told that it was the quickest time trial by my friend back in Adelaide. So that was a nice little bonus, you could say."

One-by-one, some of the world's top time trialists took their best shot at the former world hour record holder's time of 14:56. 

Dutchman Tom Dumoulin (Team Giant-Alpecin), one of the hometown favorites, arrived eight seconds slower to place fourth. Past multi-time world time trial champion Tony Martin (Etixx-Quick Step) was five seconds slower and finished runner-up. And the 15th-to-last rider to start, multi-time world time trial champion Fabian Cancellara, was six seconds off the pace for third place.

"We went with the tactic of going off early - there's no stress, you don't have to sit around all day - just set a benchmark and make everyone else chase me," Dennis said. "It worked out perfectly. Tour de France ... yellow jersey ... it's a dream. I have always wished to be in this position and now I am.

 

"I'll be amongst the yellow jersey holders, it's amazing but it's been stressful to wait for the outcome. I was shaking when my rivals were about to come one by one but I could judge with two to one kilometer to go.

 

"I did a trial before the race and I thought I had to ride in sixteen minutes but it was one less at the end. It was a bit of a shock. I never aim for a top 5 or to finish second or third but I'm always confident that I'd win and I wasn't confident that I'd beat Tony Martin or Fabian Cancellara this time. But I expected myself to win. More than a surprise, I would say it's been a relief. People said I was a dark horse but I had a chance to win. 


"The heat hasn't been a problem for me. Growing up in Adelaide… everyone who comes for the Tour Down Under in January expects a hot week. Knowing that the conditions could be like that here today, we decided with my coach that after the Dauphiné I'd be training between 2 and 5pm in 35 to 40° temperatures to get adapted to the same conditions. 

 

"The average speed is high: over 55. That's what I need to do to aim at a new hour record. Obviously, having the yellow jersey in the first stage is the first step to experience the pressure, the media, everything around the Tour that is much bigger than at every other race. It's the first step towards my long term goal, which is to win a Grand Tour but I'm still a long way away.

 

"The team here is 100% for Tejay [Van Garderen] here but I don't want to lose the yellow jersey after a day. I might keep it for two or three days, or until the team time trial, the longer the better, it'll be less pressure on Tejay before we ride fully for him in the third week."

BMC Racing Team President/General Manager Jim Ochowicz said the accomplishment, which comes on the day the U.S.-registered team was celebrating Independence Day, was "almost unbelievable."

"We are extremely excited and proud of Rohan's performance today," Ochowicz said. "It is a dream because we planned this for so long and put so many man hours into the preparation. I was convinced that his performance would be at such a level that it would have taken somebody very, very good to beat him today. And it didn't happen."

Dennis's teammate, Tejay van Garderen, finished 20th, 42 seconds behind, as his fifth career Tour de France got underway.

 

“There is no change in our GC strategy. Of course, we’re ecstatic with Rohan’s win, and we knew he would have a chance, but we’re here to help Tejay. And tomorrow, Rohan will be helping if he has to,” Jim Ochowicz told VeloNews. “We expect a sprint Sunday, and Rohan will have to find his way a little bit, because the guys will be building a wall around Tejay to keep him out of trouble.

 

“Tejay had a solid ride, without taking any unnecessary risks. These time trials are big opportunities to take some time on some of the rivals. Seconds are seconds, and that time could prove decisive in the fight for the podium. The best place for us to take time is in the time trial today and the team time trial.”


Dennis becomes the first rider from the BMC Racing Team to wear the leader's yellow jersey at the Tour de France since Cadel Evans won the race in 2011. He is the seventh Australian to hold the lead at the Tour de France, on a list that also includes Evans. Saturday's victory was his third of the season, adding to a stage win and the overall title at the Santos Tour Down Under in January. He was also a part of the BMC Racing Team's win in the team time trial last month at the Critérium du Dauphiné, a result that propelled him into the lead at that race.

 

Ochowicz was also the general manager of the American 7-Eleven team in 1986 that captured the opening stage of the Tour de France (a road race won by Alex Stieda).

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