Dennis keen to test his Grand Tour credentials at the 2017 Giro d'Italia

Australian hoping for some freedom while supporting van Garderen

Rohan Dennis is hoping to have a protected role within the BMC squad at the 2017 Giro d’Italia as he continues to test his ability in stage races and develop into a Grand Tour rider.

The 26-year-old Australian won the opening time trial and wore the yellow jersey at the 2015 Tour de France but is hesitant about returning to the Tour in 2017, preferring to make his debut in Italy in May alongside expected BMC team leader Tejay van Garderen. Richie Porte is expected to be sole leadership of the BMC team for the Tour de France.

Dennis has often shown his stage race potential, finishing second overall at the Tour of Britain and the Tour of California in 2016.

"What I've put to the team, and they haven't definitely put it in pen, it's sort of in pencil, is that my goal is to basically go to the Giro," Dennis told Australian television channel SBS.

"Maybe I will just go there, freelance and even if I'm down on GC just keep chugging away and get that feel of three weeks of looking after myself. That's what I would like to do.

"I think the team is going to be going for Tejay at the Giro. If I don't get any help that's fine but I'll be trying to float around where I think is the right spot and if someone is willing to help me out, within the team, I'll take it. I think it's a matter of trying to build that respect that I'm able to be there before actually asking for a team to fully back me.

"I'm not going to aim too high. I think my first one, if everything goes right there is no reason why I shouldn't be top 15, and I'd love to be top 10. I'd love to."

The 2017 Giro d’Italia is the 100th edition of the race, with 2016 winner Vincenzo Nibali confirming he will attempt to win again after moving to Bahrain-Merida. Other possible overall contenders include his former Astana teammate Fabio Aru, Esteban Chaves (Orica-BikeExchange) and Rafa Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe).

"It is a super hard Giro (next) year and things have to go right for the whole three weeks, especially for my first time that I've attacked a Grand Tour GC wise," Dennis said.

"I think with the Tour you have to have a full team (in support), whereas the Vuelta and the Giro it's a little bit more open," Dennis said.

"From what I know when I did the (2014) Vuelta, it was a lot more aggressive than the three Tours I've started, a lot more open and people willing to risk a lot more than at the Tour."

Doubling up with the Tour de France?

Dennis has started four Grand Tours during his five-year professional career, finishing two of them: the 2015 Tour de France and the 2014 Vuelta a Espana. He could also ride the Tour de France in 2017 after the Giro d'Italia if he recovers sufficiently and makes the powerful squad expected to back Porte's shot at overall victory.

"Richie said he'd like to have me at the Tour and you don't want to say definitely no, but I have to lean towards looking after myself maybe for a year or two, just to see where I'm at and what I have to do," Dennis admitted.

"Maybe I go to the Tour but I do what Richie did, or try to do what Richie did with Froome and help in the mountains more than just being an all-around helper in general. I have to get my mind around that and not bite off more than I can chew when it comes to if I go to the Tour, or any race here on in, look after myself a little bit more."

Dennis is likely to follow a different race programme as he looks to peak in May for the Giro d'Italia. He will again target the Australian national championships early in January and then try to help Porte win the Tour Down Under after series of placings in recent years.

"I'm going to still try and be fit in January, I can't not be. If you start behind the ball it's like you're chasing that the whole season. I felt like I was doing that a lot this year," he explained to SBS.

"I feel good on the bike now, better compared to last year. I'm happy. We know Richie probably wants to win Tour Down Under, he's probably sick of getting second, so I'll be there as a helper I'm sure."

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