Rohan Dennis (BMC) was in the box seat on the morning of the final stage of the Tour Down Under, holding two second advantage over Richie Porte (Team Sky) with teammate Cadel Evans 20 seconds in arrears. The 24-year-old avoided a crash in the last 10km of the stage and then finished safely in the bunch to secure his first overall victory at a WorldTour stage race, ending the stage as he started: in the race leader's ochre jersey.
Since moving to BMC midway through last season, Dennis has shown impressive form, with victory at the world championships in the team time trial after taking third in the final time trial of the Vuelta a España. Dennis then started this season with second place at the Australian national time trial championships behind Porte. He started the Tour Down Under riding for Evans and was focused on his Hour Record attempt February 8.Victory in Paracombe on stage three elevated him to the top of the general classification and then he finished second behind Porte up Willunga Hill to keep his overall lead by two seconds.
"It's a really special moment," Dennis, who also won the best young rider's jersey, told reporters after the stage. "It's the first race of the year and puts BMC on top of the world rankings and for myself, home town, home country. To take the win is a dream come true."
Thinking about the Hour Record
The 2015 Tour Down Under victory is Dennis' second career stage win after success at the Tour of Alberta in 2013 yet January was supposed to be preparation for his hour record attempt next month.
"It does a lot - obviously I didn't target this race, I targeted the nationals time trial," he said of the confidence gained from winning the race. "I really did come here and go to the nationals (road race) to support Cadel. I've been training on the track ... and that seems to help here. So to be able to perform on the road when I've been doing track work is a huge confidence boost."
"I'm already starting to think about it," he said of the hour record. "I can't have too many drinks tonight. "I have to keep a lid on it (and) really concentrate on my recovery over the next weeks."
Post-hour record, Dennis explained his ambitions on the road during the rest of the 2015 season. His hopes revolve around a second appearance at the Tour de France in July with Paris-Nice scheduled as first race back on the road.
"The Tour is one of my goals, to start," he said. "Obviously it's a big program just before, so it all depends on how I actually manage it. I'd love to go there and finish and actually be able to contribute to the team a little bit more."
While the UCI had previously announced a change to the rankings systems for 2015, a deferment was announced today that the changes are to be postponed. Regardless, Dennis occupies top spot of the WorldTour rankings with BMC leading the team standings.
"It's never happened before - I can say I'm the best in the world until the next WorldTour race," he said. "I will milk that for all I can, because it's not going to last too much longer."