Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing) overcame his disappointment at having to abandon the Giro d'Italia last month – and some self-described lacklustre training ever since – to take the stage 1 win Saturday at the Tour de Suisse.
Dennis sailed over the 6km test in Cham in 6:24, eight second better than teammate Stefan Kung in second and nine seconds ahead of third-placed Matthias Brandle (Trek-Segafredo). Team Sunweb's Michael Matthews was fourth, also nine seconds in arrears. Matthews' teammate Tom Dumoulin, fresh off his overall win at the Giro, was fifth, also nine seconds back.
"To be leading the race in my first race back, especially a UCI WorldTour race, is quite special," Dennis said. "I've been struggling a bit in training since I had to pull out of the Giro d'Italia, but I think today was just my day.
"I was a little bit mentally knocked down after the Giro d'Italia," Dennis added. "It was a massive goal for me this year. I put a lot of work into it, even from July last year, or August after the Rio Olympics. In the end, things like that happen. I had to move on and try to rebuild. Training hasn't been going too well, so today was a little bit of a surprise. Once you get out there you do what you have to do and hope for the best."
Dennis saw his Giro ambitions fade following a crash during stage 2 and bouts with headaches, nausea and fatigue that caused him to quit during stage 4. The 27-year-old Australian underwent tests that cleared him to train as he fights for a spot on BMC's Tour de France team in support of Richie Porte.
Dennis did himself some favours in that regard on Saturday, although he admitted he thought it would be Kung who took top honours in the short race against the clock.
"Obviously it's his home country, so it would have been nice for him to win, but he's got more time than me, he's younger and he's a huge talent," Dennis said. "I think in a couple of years he might have the victory over me so I will take it while I can.
"A one and two for BMC Racing Team is always good," Dennis continued. "My first goal for this week was the prologue and the final time trial just to see where I am at and try and have fun during the week."
Dennis' fun week won't likely include defending the jersey he won on Saturday, however, as the team has declared Damiano Caruso as the top GC man in Switzerland while Dennis targets the time trials.
"We're here for Damiano Caruso; he's our GC guy," Dennis confirmed. "I'm not here with GC on my mind. I'm here to have some fun and see how it goes in between the two time trials."
Nevertheless, riders aren't known to give up the leader's jersey without a fight, and Dennis will face his first defence during the 159.3km stage 2 run from Menziken to Bern. The stage includes three categorized climbs and an uphill finish, and Dennis indicated he expects a sprint from a reduced bunch.
"Stage 2 is a lot harder than it looks on paper," he said. "The guys were saying last time they did this circuit that there were 50 or so guys at the finish. But I'll see how my legs are. I'm good over a six- to 10-minute effort but I haven't really even looked at tomorrow's stage too seriously.
"I might be really bad, or I might be good and be able to keep the jersey," Dennis said. "I have nine seconds over Michael Matthews, and he's a good sprinter. I think it's 10 seconds on the line, so if he wins and I'm in the peloton, I'll lose it. It might be a day, or two or three."
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