UTRECHT, Netherlands (VN) — Don’t be surprised to see the yellow jersey taking pulls in Sunday’s second stage at the Tour de France.
Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing) ripped the legs off the peloton in the opening day of the 2015 Tour, setting a new speed record and snagging the yellow jersey.
Heady stuff for the 25-year-old, who many believe has major GC potential. Yet despite the fast start by the promising Australian, BMC Racing promises to stick to its plan to support Tejay van Garderen during this Tour.
“There is no change in our GC strategy. Of course, we’re ecstatic with Rohan’s win, and we knew he would have a chance, but we’re here to help Tejay. And tomorrow, Rohan will be helping if he has to,” BMC Racing general manager Jim Ochowicz told VeloNews. “We expect a sprint Sunday, and Rohan will have to find his way a little bit, because the guys will be building a wall around Tejay to keep him out of trouble.”
BMC Racing rolled into this Tour committed to supporting van Garderen all the way to Paris, with the goal of reaching the final podium. Dennis, one of the peloton’s most promising time trialists, was selected specifically to ride against the clock in Saturday’s time trial opener and next weekend’s team time trial stage.
On Saturday, Dennis lived up to his end of the bargain, stopping the clock in 14 minutes, 56 seconds, the only rider to punch in under 15 minutes on the 13.8km course on narrow, technical roads in Utrecht. With an average speed of 55.4kph, Dennis beat back the favorites, and set a new Tour record, bettering the 21-year record set by Britain’s Chris Boardman. (Dave Zabriskie’s mark of 54.676kph, set in 2005, was disqualified as part of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s ruling in 2012.)
“We knew that he would be close. That’s why we wanted him here at the Tour, because we wanted a good prologue [stage 1, — Ed], also to have good car position,” Ochowicz continued. “We wanted Rohan to be our trendsetter, to help us start this Tour off on the right foot. Rohan prepared especially for this time trial. He’s been close a few times this year, so it’s great for him to get the win. We’re elated. This is big for our organization to have the yellow jersey again.”
Among the GC contenders, van Garderen posted a solid performance, stopping the clock 42 seconds slower than his teammate in 20th. That was one second faster than defending champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), eight seconds faster than Chris Froome (Sky), 15 seconds ahead of Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), and 19 seconds faster than Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
“Tejay had a solid ride, without taking any unnecessary risks. These time trials are big opportunities to take some time on some of the rivals,” Ochowicz said. “Seconds are seconds, and that time could prove decisive in the fight for the podium. The best place for us to take time is in the time trial today and the team time trial.”
Dennis echoed his team manager’s sentiments, that his huge win Saturday in no way changes the team’s overall GC goals of shepherding van Garderen toward the Tour podium.
“The team’s 100 percent for Tejay. I don’t want to be a one-trick pony, and lose the jersey after one day of wearing it,” Dennis said. “It could be good if I could keep it for a day or two more. That’s better for Tejay, to have less pressure, as we work toward the second and third week.”
How long BMC will ride to protect Dennis’s jersey remains to be seen. Sunday’s second stage along the windy Dutch coast could provoke echelons, and with a forecast for possible rain showers, BMC will be riding at the front to protect van Garderen.
Dennis could hitch a ride on the sprint trains, and hang onto yellow. Monday’s stage three features the Mur de Huy finale, and Tuesday’s stage four bumps across the cobbles, so Dennis might not see a long run in yellow no matter how BMC plays it.
Ochowicz said the dynamics of the opening stages could help BMC keep Dennis in yellow without having to burn too many matches.
“We won’t just give it away, but we won’t kill ourselves either. We’ll get help from other teams anyway,” Ochowicz said. “We will have to take it stage by stage. Tomorrow should be a sprint, so the sprinter teams will be looking to control the race. Their interests will help us control the race without having too use too much energy.”
Saturday’s scorcher was the ideal start for BMC Racing, which takes the yellow jersey for the first time since the now-retired Cadel Evans won the 2011 Tour.