ZEELAND, Netherlands (AFP) — Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing) said it was a “hard pill to swallow” making the decision to give up the yellow jersey after just one day at the Tour de France.
The 25-year-old Australian scorched to a brilliant victory on Saturday’s opening stage time trial to wear yellow on Sunday’s second stage from Utrecht to Zeeland in the Netherlands.
But he was caught behind when the peloton split up due to crashes and as he was alongside reigning champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) at that time, he put his BMC team leader Tejay van Garderen’s interests before his own and waved goodbye to the jersey.
Van Garderen is hoping to challenge the “fantastic four” of Nibali, Chris Froome (Sky), Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) for overall victory and currently sits ahead of all of them in the standings.
“I didn’t expect to have to make the call out on the road that I did that they don’t wait for me and that they go ahead when there was a small split, but that’s racing,” said a downbeat Dennis.
“In the end, that was the best decision to make for Tejay’s long-term goal for finishing in Paris.
“There was a split, [Thibaut] Pinot pulled off, he let the wheel go and before I could know what was going on he pulled right and so did everyone else,” Dennis said.
“They looked to me to close the gap but I knew straight away that Tejay was in front and I started looking around to see who was in the bunch. Nibali was there and he was ready to go.
“It was one of those decisions that was a hard pill to swallow when I did but I decided to not chase and to give up, well potentially give up the yellow jersey to put Nibali in a spot of difficulty and hopefully lose time.
“That was my plan, it went that way but it took a while for me to be 100 percent happy with that decision.”
Dennis said his teammates felt bad for leaving him like that but he told them “not to wait” because it was “the best thing for the team.”
“A lot of guys came to me and they said sorry and I said don’t be sorry,” he added.
However, he still enjoyed his day in yellow and said it has whet his appetite for more.
“It was a good experience, it was an honor to wear it [the yellow jersey] and I hope it happens again, maybe next year,” Dennis said.
“I don’t know what the course is but it’s always a goal of mine to be able to wear a leader’s jersey, especially in the biggest race of the year.
“Everyone said to me it must be a dream come true and it really is.
“When I was a kid I only knew of the Tour de France, I didn’t know of any race other than this and it was always ‘I want to win that race,’ or at least lead it for a short period.”