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This will be good: Rohan Dennis gives the thumbs-up for Australia prior to racing in Geelong.
National under 23 champ has the ride of the day on stage 1
Just over a week after his sensational ride at Buninyong to claim the Australian under 23 road championship, Rohan Dennis (UniSA) starred in the breakaway on the opening stage of the Tour Down Under. Dennis was one of four riders who stayed clear for 130 of the 149 kilometres of the route from Prospect to Clare on Tuesday.
Dennis' form at the national titles was an indicator that the 21-year-old could be one to watch in the first WorldTour event of the year, and he had suggested he would be doing all he could, but even he admitted that he wasn't expecting events to unfold the way they did.
"I was always knew I had good form with the under 23s," Dennis admitted. "It's a bit of a boost being able to do it with the pros a little bit as well.
"I'm probably not quite there to obviously win in the pros yes, but it was good to see I was fit enough and strong enough to stay out there for 130km as well."
The 133-man peloton knew they were in for a tough day in the searing heat and crosswinds which had long been forecast, but still Dennis was keen to make his mark, as he explained.
"We were cruising along for a while and I was getting a little bit edgy, you could say. I thought why not, it's going to be a hard day," he recalled.
"I was talking to Jens Voigt and he was [saying] 'aw, the first attack will probably go because we can't be bothered with all the wind'.
"He's pretty experienced and I thought it was a great opportunity to get some exposure."
Dennis was the first man to edge away from the main bunch, eventually joined by Marcello Pavarin (Vacansoleil-DCM), Martin Kohler (BMC) and Eduard Vorganov (Katusha) with the quartet building a lead as large as 11:20 on the peloton before being reeled in via a slow and painful catch with 10 kilometres to go.
"With 20km to go we were all feeling pretty bad - it was a pretty hard ride out there with the wind," Dennis admitted. "They were probably always going to bring us back.
"I don't think we had anything but a cross or headwind the whole time. It was probably the hardest 150km I've ever done."
Dennis' efforts earned him 7th place on GC, seven seconds behind leader Andre Griepel. The South Australian is third in the Skoda King of the Mountains Classification and has a three second lead in the Cycle Instead Young Rider Classification over UniSA teammate Tom Palmer.
"I'm a little bit depleted at the moment, but I drank plenty of water and ate plenty out there," Dennis said, shaking at the finish of the stage in Clare. "Hopefully I can recover overnight and back up a little bit tomorrow."