Australian Rohan Dennis abruptly abandoned the Tour de France midway through Thursday’s 12th stage from Toulouse to Bagneres-de-Bigorre.
Dennis, the reigning world individual time trial champion, stepped off his bicycle with about 80 kilometers remaining in the mountainous stage. Dennis was a favorite to win Friday’s individual time trial in Pau.
The decision caught Bahrain-Merida management by surprise, and after the stage Director Sportif Gorazd Stangelj told reporters that the team was ‘confused’ about Dennis’s decision to quit.
“We are also confused. Let’s say I am disappointed with what happened with Rohan today because we expected a big effort from him tomorrow,” Stangelj said. “It was his decision to stop at the feed zone. We try to speak with him. We stop with the car and try to find a solution—what is going on—he said I don’t want to talk and he abandoned the race.”
Stangelj said team officials believed Dennis was in OK physical condition ahead of Friday’s individual time trial in Pau. He said that Dennis’s decision to abandon had nothing to do with his physical condition.
“For sure it has nothing to do with his physical condition,” Stangelj said.
Stangelj said that team officials drove past the feed zone and saw Dennis’s bike leaned up against the team car. He was unable to turn the car around and drive back to the feed zone, and instead called to officials at the feed zone and asked to speak with Dennis.
“He answer and said ‘I don’t want to talk right now,’ Stangelj said.
After Dennis abandoned Bahrain-Merida team then put out a statement on social media saying it did not know why the Australian had quit the race. The team said it planned to investigate Dennis’s decision to quit.
The statement read:
“Our priority is the welfare of all our riders so will launch an immediate investigation but will not be commenting further until we have established what has happened to Rohan Dennis. Meantime we continue to support our riders who are mid-race.”
Teams often release a statement after a high-profile rider leaves the Tour de France explaining the reason for the abandonment, such as sickness or an injury. When reporters spoke to Bahrain-Merida staff prior to Friday’s stage, management said that star rider Vincenzo Nibali was battling a stomach problems Friday morning.
Stangelj said that Bahrain-Merida management and Dennis had gotten along throughout the season.
“He is a special guy like all the champions are,” Stangelj said. “He is really 100 percent when he wants something and it’s difficult to make everybody happy in every single moment.”