Rohan Dennis is swiftly adjusting to life at Team Ineos, this week taking in his second stage race of the year with the British squad. The Australian was set to be co-leader at the Volta ao Algarve before finishing out of overall contention on Thursday's stage 2 to Alto da Fóia.
Dennis said before the stage that he and Michał Kwiatkowski would be in contention for team leadership at the race, depending on the results on the summit finish, with Geraint Thomas already confirming he'd take a support role.
In the end, the stage didn't go quite to plan for Ineos, despite a sterling effort on the front from Ben Swift, with Kwiatowksi finishing 14th, 27 seconds behind stage winner Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-QuickStep). Dennis, meanwhile, finished the day 66th. But the result doesn't mean that the race is a lost cause for Dennis or the team.
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"I don't know how my legs will stand up to that amount of climbing," he told Cyclingnews on the morning of stage 2. "I haven't done a heap of it in training.
"The time trial is obviously a big reason why I'm sort of a co-leader here as well. With the time trial, generally, I will take some time, so if I can minimise everything throughout the week then it should end pretty well for me."
A 20.3km test around Lagoa lies in wait for the Australian on the final day, with the time trial moved to stage 5 by the organisers, who hoped to ensure suspense right to the end. It's a move that benefits Dennis, who has won 18 time trials during his career, including dominant performances in back-to-back World Championships during the past two years.
Back in January, at his first stage race since the last of those world titles, Dennis kicked off his 2020 campaign with a success, taking fourth place at the Tour Down Under after placing fourth on the uphill finish in Paracombe and eighth on Willunga Hill. He ended up 25 seconds off race winner Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo), and only lost out on a podium place thanks to placings on individual stages.
"It would've been nice to get on that podium, but from second to fifth we were all on the same time," said Dennis. "We all knew it was going to be close, so it was close to get at least one second in one of the sprints, but it just wasn't to be.
"Fourth is still nice. I think it's a good way to start the season with some points. It gives you some motivation for you form as well. It's only early but it's still good to start like that."
So a good start to the season from a racing point-of-view, then, and the 29-year-old said that the task of meshing into a new squad after his shortened stint at Bahrain-Merida has been an easy one too.
"It's pretty good so far, pretty relaxed. We've got a good group here again for the race, and there's no real stress so we'll soon find out how it goes. For us, it's been really seamless at the moment.
"I've known a few of the guys over the years through track, and obviously you tend to move towards English-speaking riders in the peloton. I've been a pro now for seven years and over that period you get to know these guys pretty well so it's good."