Rohan Dennis has taken home his first 'Oppy medal', being named Australian cyclist of the year at the 2015 Cycling Australia awards ceremony in Melbourne on Friday night.
The Sir Hubert Opperman Medal is the flagship award of the annual ceremony, won previously by Cadel Evans and Anna Meares, and 25-year-old Dennis fought off competition from fellow nominees Annette Edmondson and Ailstair Donohoe to scoop it.
“There are some exceptional riders who have won the Oppy so to be in that sort of company is pretty special,” said Dennis. “I thought I might be able to win it later in my career after I’d won a monument or a Grand Tour. I never thought I would get it this early in my career.”
Dennis has enjoyed a storming 2015 season, in which success has followed him from start to finish. He started off by winning a stage and the overall at the Tour Down Under, before setting a new UCI Hour Record on the track, and powering to a record-breaking victory in the opening stage of the Tour de France to become the seventh Aussie to don the yellow jersey. A team time trial stage win with BMC followed a week later, and he played a crucial role in the team retaining its world title in the discipline in September. In between, came a dominant display at the USA Pro Challenge, where he won two stages and the overall.
“There are a lot of things that I did this year, that show that it was a really good year. Obviously winning the opening time trial at the Tour was a good result but I’m proudest of having had a consistent year, with a wide spread of results," said Dennis.
“Initially I didn’t think it was that good a year. I just picked a few targets and went for them. Then, when speaking with Allan Peiper (BMC Team Manager), I listed the things I did and I’d forgotten about leading the Dauphiné, winning the team time trial at the Tour and the team time trial at the World Championships. Allan helped put it in context by comparing it to what some other people achieve in an entire career.”
Dennis is now turning his attention to the 2016 season, where the Olympic Games in Rio will be the primary objective. He is hoping for more success at the Tour but will, first and foremost, be looking to get out of the blocks strongly at the Australian national road championships early in January, where he had to settle for second in the time trial this year.
“My ambitions for next year haven’t changed, I want to start well with time trial at nationals,” Dennis added. “It’s always special to wear the national jersey for the year and I can beat the best in Europe but I haven’t made it click in January. That’s my first goal.
"After that I’m looking at having a go at the Tour of California and playing role for the team at the Tour de France. But the main goal is the Rio Olympics.”
Dennis also took home the award for male cyclist of the year, while Katrin Garfoot won the women’s equivalent after a consistent season in which she took fourth in the individual time trial at the World Championships.
The ever-popular Adam Hansen was the winner of the Subaru People’s Choice Award, earning the votes of thousands of fans thanks to his completion of three more Grand Tours, taking his consecutive total to 13.
Annette Edmondson was crowned female track cyclist of the year after winning world titles in the omnium and team pursuit, with world omnium silver medallist Glenn O’Shea taking the men’s prize. Caleb Ewan, who had a fantastic neo-pro season with 11 victories, including a stage in his debut Grand Tour at the Vuelta a Espana, took home the rising star award.
Tony Brosnan and Janine Jungfels were the men’s and women’s elite mountainbike riders of the year, while Alistair Donohoe and Carole Cooke were the Para Cyclists of the year.