The future of Rohan Dennis and Bahrain-Merida could take a dramatic twist in the coming days, with speculation that the team has offered the Australian the chance to buy out his contract and leave when the UCI transfer window opens for a brief period between August 1-15.
Dennis' agent has dismissed the idea that Bahrain-Merida have put forward the option of Dennis buying out his own contract with almost 18 months of it still to run, but Cyclingnews has learned from one party close to the team that following Dennis' shock departure from the Tour de France that the option is now on the table.
At the same time, CCC Team manager Jim Ochowicz, who managed Dennis for several years at BMC Racing, has told Cyclingnews that he would have "no problem working with him" in the future. Ochowicz has a history of signing Dennis via mid-season moves, having brought him to BMC Racing in August 2014 when Dennis and Garmin-Sharp parted company.
Dennis buying himself out of his contract is just one possible outcome in what is still a complex situation.
The Bahrain-Merida management are set to sit down at the end of the Tour de France in Paris and discuss the team's next move. While one option is a summer switch, another is that Dennis leaves at the end of the season. Given that he signed a two-year deal that runs until the end of 2020, that situation might also involve a contract buy-out.
The 29-year-old was due to start the Vuelta a Espana in a matter of weeks, with the defence of his time trial world title the centre-piece of his second half of the season. There is still the possibility of the rider and Bahrain-Merida finding a resolution and honouring their contract for next season, but the coming days are the most crucial period in deciding a final outcome.
On July 24, Eurosport's Orla Chennaoui took to Twitter and posted: "Latest on the Rohan Dennis/Bahrain-Merida story, understand Dennis has been given until 1st August to buy himself out of his contract, and would then be free to find another team."
Ochowicz: I would have no problem working with him
Cyclingnews followed up on that and, although Dennis's agent, Andrew McQuaid – the son of former UCI President Pat McQuaid – responded with "not accurate", we have also been informed from one party close to the situation that the team put forward the idea of a rider buy-out following Dennis' departure from the Tour.
Ochowicz, who is at the Tour de France with his new CCC squad, agreed to talk, but would not be drawn on whether McQuaid had offered him Dennis on another mid-season switch.
"We've had conversations about other things, as we're recruiting for next year, but about Rohan, in particular, I don't go into details about individual people. If people are available, we'll consider them if we think that they'll fit into the organisation and they're the right people."
When asked if he would consider bringing Dennis back, Ochowicz said: "We never lost interest in Rohan. He left before we got this project off the ground. We parted on good terms, and if any of the riders who left had an interest in coming back, I'd talk to them. I'd be open to working with any of the riders who left the team. It's not just one guy. I'm not zeroing in on anyone. I would have no problem working with him."
Mid-season transfers between WorldTour teams are rare. Dennis was the first major one in 2014, while Carlos Verona moving from QuickStep to GreenEdge was another.
Bahrain-Merida also have experience in similar transfers. They bought Ion Izagirre out of his contract when they stepped into the WorldTour in 2017. In that case, the move wasn't a mid-season move, but Bahrain paid in the region of 200,000 to 300,000 euros to break the then Astana rider's contract as they needed UCI points for the following year.