Two months after stunning the cycling world with a mysterious abandon at the Tour de France, Rohan Dennis silenced at least some of his critics, taking a commanding triumph in the men’s individual time trial at the UCI world road cycling championships in Yorkshire, England, on Wednesday.
The 29-year-old Australian, who rides for Bahrain-Merida, blistered the ever-rolling 54km course from Northallerton to Harrogate, posting a day’s best mark of 1:05:05. That was massive 1 minute, 8 seconds ahead of Belgian wunderkind Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-Quick Step) who took second, with Italian Filippo Ganna (Ineos) third, at 1:55.
Dennis, now a two-time elite world TT champ with both victories in excess of a minute, was the best man every step of the way. After rolling last out of the start gate on a blacked out BMC Timemachine TT bike (and not his team issue Merida Time Warp TT), he decimated the rest of the 56-rider field. At the first time check, he posted a 18:58, 19 seconds better than Evenepoel, and 20 up on fellow pre-race favorite Victor Campenaerts (Lotto-Soudal).
Dennis subsequently caught and passed Campenaerts, who started 90 seconds ahead of the Aussie, but had a disastrous day that saw him crash heavily on his right side and then have a mechanical issue that forced a bike change.
Campenaerts problems likely were caused in part by occasionally slick conditions out on course. While the roads were nowhere near as wet as the previous day when giant puddles marred the U23 men’s race, there were still small sections of standing water and a thin layer of moisture on much of the tarmac. The world hour record holder and bronze medallist in this event last year ended up in 11th place this time around, 2:50 behind Dennis.
Primož Roglic was Dennis’s next victim. Coming off his Vuelta a España triumph, the Slovenian was on the short list of favorites in Yorkshire. But the Jumbo-Visma rider could never get going. He was 20th fastest at first time check, 41 seconds behind Evenepoel, and then suffered the ignominious fate of getting passed by Dennis a few kilometers from the finish. Roglic managed to keep the Aussie in his sights the rest of the way, and even passed him back just as the two riders crossed the finish line. But Roglic still ended up far off the pace, finishing 12th, three minutes behind Dennis.
“It’s been a tough year,” admitted Dennis, whose rumored unhappiness with the Merida time trial bike was cited as being at least partially responsible for his otherwise bizarre mid-race drop-out in France in July. “There’s been a lot of talk since the Tour de France about what I am doing. So it’s really special to back up what I do, to show that I am still here to race and win. I have a lot to give in this sport still.”
Despite not racing since his mid-July DNF, Dennis was exceptionally well prepared to defend a title he also won handily last year in Innsbruck, Austria.
“I did a lot of preparation, a lot of work on my head,” said Dennis, who actually pointed to his head as he crossed the finish line in Harrogate, and soon after found his wife (wearing a “Team Dennis” baseball hat) and son (in a mini rainbow jersey) in the crowd for a celebratory embrace. “It was a lot tougher than it looked out there. A lot of people helped me get here, so it’s great to repay them. I knew what pace I did last year, so I just stuck on that. I knew I was 20 seconds up at the first check – and I had more to give. So I just stayed on rhythm. It was a perfect day.”
The day’s other big story, of course, was Evenepoel. Just a year ago, the now 19-year-old won the junior TT and road titles in Austria. The Belgian then opted to skip right past the under-23 ranks and dive straight into the elite ranks. The move clearly paid off. After a breakout WorldTour season that saw him win Clásica San Sebastián — and even draw comparisons to a young Eddy Merckx — Evenepoel lived up to the hype with a silver medal in Yorkshire.
“I knew the course was pretty technical and some corners were really tricky, but I felt very good on the new Specialized Shiv and I kept the power during the race after starting a bit too fast,” said Evenepoel, after netting Belgium’s best ever result in the ITT at the World Championships. “I think I did my job well and took what’s a nice silver medal. Finishing just behind the reigning champion isn’t a shame, so I can be really proud of what I did today. Being on the podium is a dream and I wouldn’t have imagined I could do this. I’m now looking forward to Sunday’s road race, where I hope to help my team as much as possible.”
Ganna, who’s just 23, is yet another rider to watch. This year, he won a stage at the Binck Bank Tour and was sixth in the TT at the European championships.
Meanwhile, Team USA had a solid day, with Lawson Craddock (EF Education First) placing sixth at 2:07, and countryman Chad Haga (Sunweb) 19th at 3:57. Other riders of note included German Tony Martin (Jumbo-Visma), a four-time winner of this race, who ended up ninth at 2:27. There were also numerous significant absences. Last year’s world TT silver medalist Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) and four-time Tour champ Chris Froome (Ineos) are both sidelined with injuries, while Geraint Thomas (Ineos) sat out Wednesday’s race to save energy for the British team in Sunday’s road race.
2019 UCI Elite Time Trial World Championships
- Rohan Dennis, Australia, 1:05:05
- Remco Evenepoel, Belgium, at 1:08
- Filippo Ganna, Italy, at 1:55
- Patrick Bevin, New Zealand, at 1:57
- Alex Dowsett, Great Britain, at 2:01
- Lawson Craddock, United States, at 2:07
- Tanel Kangert, Estonia, at 2:07
- Nelson Oliveira, Portugal, at 2:09
- Tony Martin, Germany, at 2:27
- Stefan Kung, Switzerland, at 2:46