Rohan Dennis has hinted that there could be some significant changes coming for Bahrain-Merida. In light of hiring former Team Sky coach Rod Ellingworth and speculation surrounding Vincenzo Nibali leaving the team, Dennis told Cyclingnews that such decisions are better left to management while he focuses on his performances at the Tour of California.
"It's not really up to me to say, but, honestly, I'm pretty sure [Vincenzo Nibali] is leaving. It's just speculation, obviously, but with Rod Ellingworth coming on board, there will potentially be some big changes," Dennis told Cyclingnews when asked if the team will consider replacing Vincenzo Nibali with another outright team leader.
"But that's management's job to handle all that stuff."
Teams and riders are not permitted to discuss potential negotiations or signings for the next season until August 1, but it was reported earlier this year that contract negotiations had broken down between Nibali and Bahrain-Merida, and that he will move to Trek-Segafredo. He joined Bahrain-Merida in 2017 on a three-year deal, set to end this year. It was reported that he had requested a contract extension for two years, but the team did not commit to those terms.
It has been reported that Mikel Landa will move from Movistar to Bahrain-Merida next year; however, Dennis did not want to speculate on who the replacement might be, if anyone at all.
He elaborated on the team's decision to bring Ellingworth into a senior management role at Bahrain-Merida as being a positive change for the team. Cyclingnews reported in April that the team's new partner, McLaren, had been courting Ellingworth, who has been part of Team Sky's (now Team Ineos) coaching staff since 2010. Team Sky later announced that Ellingworth would part ways with the team at the end of this season.
Dennis said that while he doesn't know Ellingworth as well as some other riders might, he has spoken with him over the years. Ellingworth has been credited for setting up British Cycling's academy programme in 2004 and coaching riders like Geraint Thomas, Mark Cavendish, Bradley Wiggins and Ed Clancy, and who, according to the Telegraph, have won a combined "five Olympic gold medals, 12 world track titles, one world road race title, 51 grand tour stage wins, one Milan-San Remo title and the Tour de France."
Dennis began his career with a focus on the track and formed part of the Australian squad that earned the silver medal in the team pursuit at the 2012 Olympic Games.
"I've never had the chance to work with Rod before, but I have gotten to know him over the years," he said. "I was on the track team for the Australian team, and so he was involved with the team on the track a few times. In general, I've known him, not super well, but we have spoken several times."
All goals point to the Tour de France
Dennis – the reigning time trial world champion – is currently competing at the Tour of California, where he placed second overall at two previous editions: in 2014 to Wiggins and in 2016 to Julian Alaphilippe. This year's route doesn't include a time trial, but he's hoping to do well, nonetheless.
"I would love to get a good result here because it's always been a good race for me," Dennis said. "I've always found some sort of a result, in the time trial. Obviously, there's no time trial here to back my GC, which is a bit of a shame, but it doesn't really matter."
Dennis is still in contention for the overall classification after placing 20th on stage 2 on Monday, 38 seconds down on stage winner Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-QuickStep). It was the first mountainous stage of the seven-day race, with a finish at South Lake Tahoe. Tejay van Garderen (EF Education First) now leads the overall classification, with Dennis in 17th place, 42 seconds back.
The overall classification at the Tour of California would be a welcomed success for Dennis after having had a relatively quiet start to his season. He took a promising fifth overall at the Tour Down Under in January, and has since been training with his sights set on the Tour de France in July.
"I've had a slower start to the season," Dennis said. "The Tour Down Under was good, but I've been trying to build up and work on my time trialling again. The big goal for me this year is the Tour de France."
Dennis told Cyclingnews that he doesn't have ambitions for the overall classification, and that he'll be committed to working for Nibali. He will, however, look toward winning the 28km team time trial held on stage 2 in Brussels and the 27km individual time trial held on stage 13 in Pau.
"I'll be going for the time trials," Dennis said. "Vincenzo will be racing for us at the Tour de France, and I'll be working for him. Obviously, that all depends on how he goes at the Giro d'Italia, but he seems to be in good form, and so we'll see how it goes."
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