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Dennis staying realistic about Giro overall classification goals

By Gregor Brown • Updated
Australian national time trial champion Rohan Dennis went out of the gate early in the day and set the fastest time, putting himself in the hot seat. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

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TEL AVIV, Israel (VN) — Australian Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing) may have the pink jersey, but he is keeping a realistic look at the overall 2018 Giro d’Italia.

Dennis took the lead from Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) by collecting bonus seconds midway through stage two from Haifa to Tel Aviv. The day before in Jerusalem, Dumoulin had edged ahead of him to win the 9.7-kilometer time trial by two seconds.

“I’m trying not to put much pressure on, saying where I want to come or if it’s a top five, 10 or 20, it’s more of the process and getting to the finish in Rome in one piece,” Dennis told VeloNews.

“I haven’t had much luck lately with grand tours. Also testing my legs in the third week is a big goal of mine and my coaches and seeing the work we’ve done and if it’s an appropriate goal for me in a grand tour, that’s the big goal over the next three weeks.”

Dennis won the opening time trial in the Tour de France in 2015 and wore the yellow jersey for one day. Now he has a pink one to add to his trophy chest.

Lately, though, luck has not been on his side. He crashed and abandoned the 2017 Giro d’Italia and was forced to pull out of the Vuelta a España later in the year with a respiratory infection.

BMC Racing helped Cadel Evans become Australis’s first Tour de France champion. It has also helped Richie Porte, Tejay van Garderen, and now Dennis to develop in the grand tours.

The former hour-record holder is staying strong in time trials, which he showed in the opening day in Jerusalem, while also improving in the mountains.

“I’ve done a lot of climbing, it wasn’t at altitude. And also, more so the efforts, in the second half or at the end of long rides. That’s where the racing is, not in the first hour. There’s not many guys who can match me in the first hour, but there are plenty who can match me in the fifth. So that’s what I really need to work on,” Dennis said of his Giro build-up.

“Did I preview the mountain stages? I’ve raced some of them. I’ve done a lot of the climbs before but to be honest, you can’t recon many of the mountain stages. A lot of them are snowed in. Recently, I saw the Stelvio stage get cleared with explosives. It’s not easy to recon things. Hopefully, this year I get to see a lot of climbs and next year, if I’m back, I’ll be able to back things up.”

The Dennis grand tour project is a slow-developing one. Even with a yellow and pink jersey already on his palmares, the team is approaching the general classification with caution. They are still trying to understand if his body can handle the three-week effort.

To prepare, Dennis said he did more six-hour rides than ever. Often at the beginning and certainly at the end, he competes painful and trying intervals to simulate what he will face in these Giro d’Italia stages over the next three weeks to Rome.

“I did everything I could and I just got beaten in the time trial,” Dennis said of his Jerusalem disappointment.

“But this has been a bit of a confidence boost. I was feeling good in the Tour de Romandie. I was worried about the back up with not so much time between this year and it was a hard race. Now, I have a boost with the Giro’s three weeks ahead.”

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