Rohan Dennis (BMC) has worn the leader's jersey at the Tour de France in 2015, the Vuelta a España last year, and added the leader's jersey in the Giro d’Italia to his collection after winning a time bonus during stage 2's race to Tel Aviv.
Dennis came within a whisker of the maglia rosa during stage 1's opening time trial in Jerusalem, where he turned in a storming performance, but ultimately was pipped to the victory and overall race lead by Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb).
On the road to Tel Aviv, however, the Australian outgunned Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors) at an intermediate sprint to snatch the bonus seconds he needed to leapfrog ahead of Dumoulin on GC.
Dennis is targetting GC in the Giro d'Italia for the second year running. Last year's bid ended disastrously following a crash on stage 2 and subsequent abandon as a result of his injuries on stage 4. This time round, even if the opening Giro d'Italia stage didn't go his way, Dennis now has become his country's first leader of the Giro d'Italia since Simon Clarke briefly held the top spot in the first week of the 2015 edition.
Dennis revealed that he had not been in agreement with his team about the strategy to try and move into pink, but eventually he had accepted that the tactic of going for it an intermediate sprint was the best approach.
"I wasn't keen on the idea of going for it on bonus seconds, but the team said. 'look, we're doing it.' It's special wearing the jersey not just of me but because of the team as well," Dennis said in a post-race press conference.
"I had thought of attacking; I was surfing around the peloton, asking a few other riders. 'are you going to sprint?' Dumoulin said he was not too bothered, [Victor] Campanaerts (Lotto Fix All, third in the opening TT ) was because he'd been attacking in the first 40 kilometres and went for it again in the last part.
"But I backed myself in a sprint against the GC guys, I knew I was fairly quick, and the team backed me in that decision."
Speaking earlier on television, Dennis had said that he thought Viviani's push for the intermediate sprint wasn't an all-out effort.
"I think Viviani sprinted, but he didn't go full. It as good to see him get the stage win after, not gifting it to me but he was kind, let's be honest."
Asked to expand on why he had looked back during the sprint itself, Dennis said, "I didn't want to be surprised by anybody getting a jump, I left it to Jurgen [Roelandts] to do last little lead-out, and when he slowed up, I knew it was a perfect time to go."
Now with the pink jersey in the bag, the next question is how Dennis sees the rest of the race play out, regarding his own GC ambitions, given his early lead.
"The first thing is to try and keep the lead tomorrow [stage 3], so I can wear it in Italy," Dennis said later. "I'm sure at some stage I will lose it, but I won't stop fighting for it until we finish in Rome."
And as for how he felt about completing his Grand Tour set of leader's jerseys, only the third Australian to do so after Bradley McGee and Cadel Evans, Dennis said "it's a little bit different. I got yellow through the individual time trial in the Tour, red through the Vuelta's team time trial and this pink one through the individual time trial then the team's work in the road today. That makes it a bit more special, sharing it with the team and with their teamwork - It's a special one."
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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