Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing Team) fulfilled widespread predictions that he would take the opening time trial of the Vuelta a España on Saturday evening to claim his second Grand Tour lead of the 2018 season.
In the process, the Australian once more captured the lead of the Vuelta on its first stage, just as he had done last August in the Vuelta's opening team time trial, and won his fifth individual time trial win of the season. It is also the third time in four years that BMC Racing Team had won the opening stage of the Vuelta a España, twice in team time trials and once in an individual event.
Dennis admitted that Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) had run him a little closer than he would have liked, but his margin of six seconds over the Pole in such a short time trial was nonetheless a very solid one.
"I was confident, but at the same time, when I saw his time, it made me a little nervous," he admitted. "I was hoping he wouldn't break 9:50," - which Kwiatkowski did by quite a margin, clocking 9:45 - "because I was confident I could get in the 9:40s but not super-confident could get in the 9:30s."
As for his strategy on the eight kilometre Malaga course, Dennis said "I was thinking maybe the guys [opposition] were leaving too much in the tank and it made me realise the end of the race was really the top of the hill. So that was a six and a half minute effort. You couldn't take any more time out from there. You might lose one or two seconds but that's it. I just thought, go all in to the top."
Dennis argued that rather than Saturday's win boding well for the Worlds TT, he would have to wait until stage 16 to be surer of his possibilities in Innsbruck. "That's a longer time trial, so it'll give me a much better indication," he said.
Meanwhile, Dennis has a Grand Tour lead for a fourth time in his career, after the Tour de France in 2015, Vuelta a España last year and Giro d'Italia this May. But rather than defending it tooth and nail, he argued that he would be more interested in working for his team-mates in the days to come.
Asked how far he wanted to defend his lead, Dennis answered, "no offence to the Vuelta, but I'm not overly bothered about that. My goals are stage 1 and stage 16 and really to be a workhorse for my team-mates and try and help them achieve their goals. It's probably going to be an uphill sprint [on stage two] and I'm not going to be unhappy if I keep it, though, I'll still be pleased."
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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