Rohan Dennis and his BMC teammates hugged in celebration and slapped each other on the back after the Australian produced an impressive uphill sprint to win stage 2 of the Tour of the Alps. Dennis beat new overall leader Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Davide Ballerini (Androni Giocattoli) in the sprint.
For the talented Australian, the stage victory was a way of paying back his teammates for their patience and hard work after he lost time on Monday’s first uphill finish and then made a few mistakes Tuesday.
“I wasted the team’s energy way too much today. I stopped for a pee break when I shouldn’t have, I asked for gloves at the wrong time and wasted their energy. So to get the win for them is great. It’s good to get their confidence in me,” Dennis explained humbly in the post-race press conference.
“Joey Rosskopf in particular did a lot for me today. He rode in front of Brent [Bookwalter] and Brent was in front of me for the last 10km. He was amazing as he led out Brent. Then it all worked out perfectly in the sprint and I’m glad to repay their effort.
“I lost time yesterday, which is not great for any overall ambitions. Today this helps my confidence and gets it back up. We didn’t have huge climbs today but to have those legs in the finale is a good boost for my morale.”
Dennis admitted he is not a sprinter but he is never afraid to have a go, and he used his sheer power on the rising finish after an excellent lead-out by his teammates. BMC also had Damiano Caruso in a late attack, meaning that while other teams had to chase, they could sit back and save their strength for their final sprint effort.
“There’s been a couple of times when I’ve won sprint finishes but when it comes to sprinters like Kittel, Sagan or even our own Greg Van Avermaet, I’m no match. But when it’s uphill, for climbers, I have enough speed to get the win now and again,” Dennis explained, revealing his simple but effective race strategy.
“To be honest I saw today’s finish and thought there would be about 60 guys up there. If I had legs I’d have a go. That’s my mentality this week: see how you feel and if you can, you can. If you can’t, it’s not too bad and you minimise your losses. It’s best for me to look at this race kilometre by kilometre and get a possible result where I can, instead of thinking ahead and saving my legs for the mountains. I want to take my chances.”
A final test before the Giro d’Italia
Dennis is using the Tour of Alps as his final preparation for the Giro d’Italia, where he will back up Tejay van Garderen and test his own Grand Tour credentials for the first time. His stage victory is a huge satisfaction. Any kind of overall result against the likes of Pinot, Geraint Thomas, Michele Scarponi and others at the Tour of the Alps will be an extra bonus and a further boost.
“I wanted to I think with my legs today and I’ll do the same tomorrow,” Dennis explained, as attention turned to the three-climb 143km third stage between Villabassa and Funes in the heart of the Dolomites.
Weather permitting, the riders will climb the Passo delle Erbe (1987m, 14.8km at 6%) and the Alpe Rodengo Zumis (1748m, 12.7km at 7%) and then ascend to the finish at Funes (1140m, 8.7km at 6.5%).
Dennis knows it will be huge test of everyone’s climbing ability and his own overall chances.
“There’s no reason I can’t be in top 10 again,” he said, before describing a plan that points to his instinctive approach to racing.
“I think I just have to not think on the bike.”