Dennis in the driver's seat at La Provence

'I think it is our race to lose at this point,' says BMC leader

Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing) took control of the Tour La Provence general classification on Wednesday, and with just one stage remaining is primed to take his first UCI win of the 2017 season. Dennis finished second to stage 2 winner Alexandre Geniez (AG2R La Mondiale) and now leads the overall, tied on time with three other riders.

"I don't see why we can't win the overall with either myself or one of the other guys on the team," he said in an interview posted on BMC Racing's website. "The team is super strong, and we have shown that today and yesterday. We are all working hard, and I think it is our race to lose at this point."

The three-day race started Tuesday with a 205.9km stage from Aubagne to Istres won by Justin Jules (WB Veranclassic Aqua Protect) in nearly five hours. Dennis finishes 38th on the day but was tied on time with 81 riders, led by Jules at the top of the general classification.

Dennis seized the overall lead during stage 2 by infiltrating a move that escaped with about 10km to go after the original breakaway had been caught. When Geniez attacked near the finish in La Ciotat, Dennis countered to finish second in a group of four that had four seconds on the field.

"The initial attack was from Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie), and Joey Rosskopf (BMC Racing) was doing a great job keeping him in check up the climb before Geniez attacked. He was going pretty hard, so it came to a point where I thought it was now or never, so I went with the next move to form the breakaway.

"We were working well together, and we knew that we were holding onto a slight gap," Dennis said. "At 3km to go, I turned around and could see the peloton, so I knew they were coming up fast. We lost some time on the last section, but that is normal with a breakaway that close to the finish."

Dennis now leads Geniez, Matej Mohoric (UAE Emirates) and Nicolas Edet (Cofidis, Solutions Credits), all on the same time. Jérémy Lecroq (Roubaix-Lille Metropole) lead in a large group of riders who are four seconds back.Thursday's final stage is a moderately flat  171.4km from Aix-en-Provence to Marseille.

BMC Racing Sports Director Yvon Ledanois was obviously pleased with how his team performed.

"We didn't have to pull too much early on, but I wanted the guys to take responsibility and look out for any opportunities heading into the final section," he said. "Tom Bohli did an excellent job pulling at the front, and then we tried two or three times before Rohan followed the final, winning move."

Dennis started his 2017 season by defending his title in the Australian time trial championships in Janaury. He remained in Australia for the Tour Down Under and the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, traveling to Europe earlier this month. Dennis said he's happy with how he is riding in his 2017 European debut. 

"The last couple of years I have probably been riding average at my first races in Europe, so to come here and to be in good shape is a big confidence boost for me," he said. 

Dennis' performance so far in Provence has been a confidence builder for his director as well.

"The most important thing for Rohan on today's stage was that he looked strong," Ledanois said. "Taking the leader's jersey is a bonus this early in the season. The race is not finished, but we have a strong team and we will certainly try our hardest to defend this jersey tomorrow."

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