Vuelta a Espana

Road to Austria goes through Spain for Dennis

The road to the Innsbruck world championships goes through Spain for many of the rainbow jersey candidates.

MALAGA, Spain (VN) — The road to the Innsbruck world championships goes through Spain for many of the rainbow jersey candidates.

Riders like Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), Dan Martin (UAE-Emirates) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) are among scores of riders honing their legs for the world road title during this month’s Vuelta a España.

BMC Racing’s Rohan Dennis is on the same track, but for the individual time trial. An impressive victory Saturday on the mean streets of Málaga boosted his confidence as well as gave him another grand tour leader’s jersey.

“My Vuelta is primarily to prepare for the world championships,” Dennis said. “To be honest, it’s not a big deal if I lose the jersey [Sunday].”

Dennis confirmed he is not racing the Vuelta with an eye on GC. He’s here to train for Innsbruck, perhaps win another time trial in stage 16 and help team captain Richie Porte when and where he can.

Dennis had two goals for this Vuelta — to win a stage and snag the leader’s jersey — and he checked them off in the first 8km of racing.

“Part of my goal coming into the Vuelta was to get a stage win and it’s nice to do that on the first day again and also get the jersey,” he said. “I think after [Saturday] it would have been pretty hard to get the red jersey so this was really my only chance to get it and we succeeded. It feels pretty good.”

The 28-year-old Australian is roughly halfway through what he describes as an “experiment” to see how far he can go in a quest to develop into a grand tour rider.

With a world-class time trial and improving climbing abilities, Dennis looks to have the skillset. The effort began in earnest in 2017 following a big focus on the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, but he was forced to abandon following an early crash in that year’s Giro d’Italia.

In May, Dennis stepped up and delivered his first top-20 with 16th overall in the Giro that included four days in the leader’s jersey and a stage victory.

The longer view remains on grand tour progression — one which he will take up with Bahrain-Merida next season — but the short-term is focusing Innsbruck.

With three times in the top-10, Dennis will be among the podium favorites for the elite men’s individual time trial on September 26. Other gold medal contenders will be Tom Dumoulin and Primoz Roglic, and after racing the Tour de France, neither of them are racing the Vuelta.