Dennis had made the Giro d'Italia his career's first real Grand Tour GC challenge, in a four year project to see how he could perform as an overall contender in a three-week race. And up until late on stage 3, Dennis' plans were going well, even if the Giro d'Italia peloton had shattered into various echelons on the wind-blasted stage.
When the crash happened, Dennis' team, with the young Australian well-placed, were on the front of the bunch shortly after the Quick Step Floors-driven breakaway had forged clear. Like all the other squads, BMC Racing were trying to limit the damage as the peloton battled for position in near-gale force crosswinds.
That's when Dennis went down, badly jarring his neck. Although he was able to start riding again relatively quickly, unluckily the incident happened exactly at the point when the peloton was in a frantic all-out pursuit of the Quick-Step group. As a result, the divide between the Australian's group and the rest of the field, racing flat-out ahead, widened inexorably to over five minutes by the time Dennis made it over the line, 158th on the stage.
His teammate Tejay van Garderen made it into the finish in the main group, 13 seconds back on the winning break, and now lies 23rd overall. But Dennis will leave the Giro's three-day spell in Sardinia injured and with his overall hopes all but gone.
"It was about 10 kilometres to go and we were making an echelon to try and bring that front group back," Dennis later explained. "A Bardiani CSF guy came around me as I was trying to help start it, and he just turned left on my front wheel and took me out. So I didn't even have a chance, there was no split second where I could try and hold it up. I was down on my right side before I knew it."
"The shower hurt. But mainly my neck hurts, I've got a bit of a headache. It's just the jarring of going down, but I'll see the osteo and get that fixed."
Dennis took a realistic view of his chances of a good GC from this point on in the race, recognising that a five-minute loss after three days of racing was a sizeable margin. "Anything can happen and I'm not just going to throw in the towel and go 'oh stuff it.' But I have to be realistic and say 'look, GC is pretty well done.'"
BMC Racing Team's Max Sciandri argued that although Dennis time loss was a significant blow, on the plus side, "Tejay came safe into the finish with his teammates around him."
Team doctor Dr Giovanni Ruffini added that "Rohan Dennis went down on his right side at a high speed so naturally he has a fair bit of road rash and superficial contusions. He has a sore neck which is a result of the crash but usually, it's nothing the team's physiotherapist can't fix."
"We will see how Rohan wakes up tomorrow but he is lucky to escape with nothing serious and he will be able to continue racing."
Assuming the injury sorts itself out, Dennis is determined, even so, to try and keep his focus on a strong GC performance, albeit outside of the running for a top spot for now.
"I'm just going to have to keep doing what I was planning to do and ride as if it [the GC] isn't done and still get that experience and look after myself for a full three weeks," he reflected.
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