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Brailsford: Morale played part in Dennis Giro d'Italia revelation

Team Ineos rider Australias Rohan Dennis R Team Ineos rider Great Britains Tao Geoghegan Hart C and Team Sunweb Australians rider Jai Hindley L lead the race uphill at Passo dello Stelvio Stelvio Pass during the 18th stage of the Giro dItalia 2020 cycling race a 207kilometer route between Pinzolo and Laghi di Cancano on October 22 2020 Photo by Luca Bettini AFP Photo by LUCA BETTINIAFP via Getty Images
Rohan Dennis leads Tao Geoghegan Hart up the Passo dello Stelvio (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Dave Brailsford has suggested the key to Rohan Dennis’ success at Ineos Grenadiers is down to him feeling 'happy and supported', drawing a comparison with Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo-Visma), who recently announced he's taking a break from the sport. 

The Ineos boss described Dennis' performance at last year's Giro d'Italia, where he guided Tao Geoghegan Hart to a dramatic overall victory, as "a revelation to a lot of people”. It was the Australian's first year on the team after a bitter fall-out with his old team Bahrain McLaren, which contributed to significant mental health issues, as he later revealed. 

Last week, Dumoulin put his career on hold in order to look after his own mental well-being. 

“This is not about Tom the competitor or Tom the bike rider; this is about Tom the person,” Brailsford said during an interview with international media outlets on Wednesday. 

“The performer is built on the person and clearly if he needs some time out, that’s the right thing to do.”

When later asked about Dennis, he touched on the same point. 

“Again, it’s a bit like the person and the performer. Rohan’s happy. I think he feels supported, and he’s happy.”

Dennis’ exit from the Bahrain team was a messy affair. He left the Tour de France suddenly in 2019 on the eve of the individual time trial, with no explanation offered as to why. It was later revealed his contract had been terminated, a matter that is still the subject of a UCI arbitration process.

Team Ineos picked Dennis up following his emphatic time trial win at the Yorkshire World Championships, and despite the fact that their own Filippo Ganna has now established himself as the leading force in time trialling, Dennis gave a return on investment when he tore the Giro field apart on the Stelvio and at Sestriere to engineer Geoghegan Hart’s success.

 “I think he felt a little bit that he was recognised for his TT abilities, but he knew that he was ­– and he is – a great teammate," Brailsford said. 

"He can contribute to races in more than just a TT capacity, and he was motivated to demonstrate that and found himself in a group where they were having a lot of success, with great morale, and he decided to shake it up and turn the race upside down pretty much single-handedly." 

"It was a revelation for a lot of people to see him do that, and it was fantastic to see his personal response and his development as an individual.”

Dennis will target the Olympic time trial title in 2021 and is part of the team’s plans for the Tour de France in the weeks leading up to Tokyo.  

“I couldn’t be happier for him and for us, and hopefully he can take that into this season and continue to grow and develop on that,” Brailsford added. 

As for Dumoulin, the Ineos boss refused to see the Jumbo-Visma rider's decision to take a step back as a boost for his team’s chances at the Tour de France. 

“If you want to get best out yourself, you’ve got to have great competition. You want to be up against the best competitors and he’s without doubt one of the best bike riders in the world, so hopefully he comes back stronger and we can enjoy racing together again," Brailsford said. 

“We wouldn’t see it in the context of any positive or negative for us. It’s just more important that he gets the support he needs. He’s done a lot for the sport and he’s a great guy, a classy bike rider and a great competitor. All of us within the sport should get behind him and hope he’s ok.”