Reigning individual time trial world champion, Rohan Dennis, chose to ride a BMC Timemachine TT as he rode to victory to defend his title, opting not to use his Bahrain-Merida team-issued Merida Time Warp TT. The decision to use non-team-issue equipment doesn't constitute a breach of any rules, however.
When it comes to representing national federations at the UCI Road World Championships, riders are free to choose their equipment, though the pressure from trade teams and sponsors is ever-present, as Linda Villumsen learned when she rode a blacked-out, non-team-issue bike to the world time trial title in 2015, and was nearly sacked on the spot by UnitedHealthcare bosses.
The underlying battle over equipment came to the fore following Dennis' sudden withdrawal from the Tour de France on stage 12 - one day before the individual time trial that the Australian was the hot favourite to win.
Dennis' aversion to Merida's time trial bike - the Time Warp TT - was one of the many reasons cited, and the 29-year-old hadn't raced since.
In a bold move, it looks as though Dennis used the same BMC bike he rode to victory in Innsbruck in 2018, albeit with the BMC logos removed. The bike also features CeramicSpeed oversized pulley wheels and the €3,000 custom moulded Speedbar TT aerobars - purported to be another source of tension in the Bahrain-Merida camp.
When asked about his bike choice ahead of the race, Dennis said: “The national team deemed it was the best equipment for me and my body position, and the best equipment for me to get the result I need to get here. I’ve literally just done testing leading into this. It’s all been a mash-up over… probably since I’ve been in the national team, which I’ve been in every year since I was a junior in 2007. Since then we’ve started finding out information about what’s best for me.”
Asked if he’d encountered any such difficulties with Bahrain-Merida, Dennis went on to say: “Not at all” before insisting: “National team trumps trade team.” As for Bahrain-Merida's opinion on the saga: “That’s a question you’d have to ask them.”
While the move will have undoubtedly agitated his Bahrain-Merida team bosses, the move clearly paid off as Dennis stormed to victory, beating Remco Evenepoel into second place by well over a minute.
BMC has since publically congratulated Dennis via Instagram, and while Cyclingnews has reached out to Merida Bikes, no comment has been received at this stage.