Five years on from taking fifth place in the time trial at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Australia's Rohan Dennis walked away from the Tokyo Games with a bronze medal, edging out Swiss rider Stefan Küng by less than a second at the Fuji Speedway.
Dennis was among a cluster of five riders within 16 seconds of eventual gold medallist Primož Roglič (Slovenia) at the midway point of the 42.2-kilometre race. His position fluctuated from second to fifth over the final two checkpoints before securing third place at the end of the race.
He said afterwards that he was very proud of his effort to take his second Olympic medal during the near hour-long ride, adding that he had left everything out on the road.
"Look, I gave it everything. Everything was left out there and everything was left out there in training," he said. "The form was good, but I was beaten by two better guys on the day. I'm just glad I got that medal in the end and I'm proud. Very proud.
"Obviously, it would've been great to get the gold, but I've done everything possible to be in this position. I can be proud of everything me and the team have achieved – everything we did was on point, and we didn't falter once. We achieved that goal of at least being on the podium and I'm very happy with it."
Dennis and his fellow podium finishers each had one thing in common in the build-up to the time trial, with neither he, silver medallist Tom Dumoulin (Netherlands) or Roglič riding the full Tour de France. He and Dumoulin avoided the race altogether, while the Slovenian was forced to abandon the race after eight days.
The Australian said after that he had thought that Belgium's Wout van Aert would be the favourite – especially given his three stage wins in the Tour – saying that maybe he and his fellow medal winners were a little fresher for the effort.
"In the end it was probably, from what we saw in the first week – a lot of crashes – it was more of a risk than reward to do the Tour de France," Dennis said. "I was still a bit surprised by Wout van Aert. I thought for sure from the way he was riding in the road race that he was going to be the guy to beat today, and he did the Tour.
"So, I'm a little bit surprised by the podium of the three of us not really going the Tour – even for Primož. Maybe we're just a little bit fresher for a more intense race rather than the long, six-hour slog of the road race."
As was borne out in the time checks, Dennis said that the second half of the race – the second lap of the circuit in and around the motor racing circuit – was tougher than the first, with Roglič likely winning it on the second ascent of the toughest climb of the day, 13 kilometres from the line.
"The first lap was quite easy, and then on the second lap it took a long time to catch G [Thomas]. I did eventually but in that second half the climb out the back was brutal.
"That's where Primož absolutely destroyed us both – well, all of us. That's where he definitely won it. It was just a dog fight between the rest of us and I was lucky to be on the positive side of that."
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