Stage 2: Banyoles - Banyoles
The Australian set a time of 22:27 on the 18.5-kilometre course around Lake Bagnoles and country roads north of Girona, beating French time trial National Champion Remi Cavagana (Deceuninck-QuickStep) by five seconds.
João Almeida (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and the USA’s Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) were the best of the expected overall contenders and are now well-placed in the overall classification of the many big-name contenders in this year’s Volta. Almeida set an exact time of 22:54.99, while McNulty was timed at 22:55. They were given the same time of 22:55, with the one-hundredth of a second yielding Almeida the race lead.
Stage 1 winner Andreas Kron (Lotto Soudal) set a time of 24:28 and so slipped out of the top 20.
Dennis spent two hours in the hot seat after setting the fastest time, waiting to see if any of the overall contenders and rival time trial specialists could beat his time. Nobody other than Cavagna came close.
He was emotional after taking his first time trial victory since 2019 and his difficult divorce from Bahrain Merida and move to Ineos Grenadiers.
"I’m relieved. It's been a long time between drinks. If I'm completely honest with you, it's been a tough little road but it's really great to be back on the top step,” Dennis said.
"It means a lot. It's my first victory with Ineos Grenadiers and my first victory since Yorkshire Worlds. Look, it's been a pretty tough year and a half of second or third places, or even out of the top 10 sometimes.
“It's amazing - the team has always supported me and believed that I can be back on that top step. It's just amazing to be back. It's not been easy with all these young guys, so I'm making most of this win.”
Dennis, like many riders, divides his time between Andorra and the Girona area. He lost two minutes in the final kilometres of stage 1 and so is not an overall contender but was happy to be racing on his adopted home roads.
“I train on these roads a lot and I had a lot of friends out there to cheer me on, so it's great to do it in front of them," he concluded.
Wednesday’s third stage climbs deep into the Pyrenees and close to the border with France for a mountain finish at the Vallter 2000 ski resort. The 203km router starts near Barcelona and gradually ramps up before the final 23.2 kilometres to the finish above the snow line at 2,125 metres.
“I’m just a donkey,” Dennis said of his overall hopes and team role, recalling his hard-working role at last year’s Giro d'Italia when he played a vital part in Tao Geoghegan Hart’s overall victory.
“I’m just the one who helps out. It’s amazing we’ve got four cards to play with the two Richies [Richie Porte and Richard Carapaz], G [Geraint Thomas] and Yatesy [Adam Yates] too. It’s not going to get any easier from here, we’ve got Vallter 2000. It’s good we’ve got options.”
What it means for the GC battle
With the decisive mountain stages still to come later in the week, the 18.5km time trial was bound to shake up the overall classification and reveal who would be a real overall contender. As always, there were winners and losers, especially considering the different riders’ form, ambitions and climbing ability.
Chris Froome (Israel Start-Up Nation) confirmed before the start of Volta a Catalunya to Cyclingnews that he would not be a contender, and he was distanced and lost 8:30. He lost a further two minutes in the time trial.
Also off the pace and so slipping down the new classification where Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic), Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation), Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma), Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers), Jai Hindley (Team DSM), Marc Soler (Movistar) and Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange). They all lost more than a minute to Dennis, and so 30 seconds to Almeida and McNulty.
Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) was the worst of all, recording a time of 24:24, which left him a minute and a half off the pace.
Steven Kruijswijk indicated he is a clear threat considering Jumbo-Visma’s stage racing ability and Kuss as support. He was just four seconds slower than McNulty and so is in the game. So is Richie Porte. He was also within 10 seconds and could emerge as Ineos Grenadiers’ protected rider despite crashing out on stage 1 of Paris-Nice.
Teammate Geraint Thomas was not a contender at Tirreno-Adriatico but seems to have benefited from a week of hard racing and finished 10th in the time trial and is now only 19 seconds down on Almeida.
Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe) could also be a threat and is only 22 seconds back, while teammate Wilco Kelderman is at 25 seconds in his first race since being hit by a car during a January training camp.
It is unusual to have a time trial so early in a stage race but the time gaps will perhaps inspire attacks from the pure climbers and those who need to pull back lost time.
Following Wednesday's finish at Vallter 2000, Thursday’s 166km stage includes three major climbs and another high mountain finish at Port Aine’. Stage 6 to Manresa is equally testing, with the steep climb of Porte de Montserrat ending less than 20km from the finish.
Saturday’s seventh stage also has a shark’s tooth profile in the hills behind Barcelona, while Sunday’s final stage covers the testing Montjuïc circuit six times.
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Rohan Dennis (Aus) Ineos Grenadiers||0:22:27|
|2||Rémi Cavagna (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep||0:00:05|
|3||João Almeida (Por) Deceuninck-QuickStep||0:00:28|
|4||Brandon McNulty (USA) UAE Team Emirates||0:00:28|
|5||Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Jumbo-Visma||0:00:33|
|6||Richie Porte (Aus) Ineos Grenadiers||0:00:34|
|7||Adam Yates (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers||0:00:35|
|8||Josef Cerny (Cze) Deceuninck-QuickStep||0:00:38|
|9||Stefan De Bod (RSA) Astana-Premier Tech||0:00:38|
|10||Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers||0:00:47|
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||João Almeida (Por) Deceuninck-QuickStep||4:43:26|
|2||Brandon McNulty (USA) UAE Team Emirates|
|3||Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Jumbo-Visma||0:00:05|
|4||Richie Porte (Aus) Ineos Grenadiers||0:00:06|
|5||Adam Yates (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers||0:00:07|
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