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Dennis steps up in BMC’s ranks with Giro approaching

Rohan Dennis is proving himself as an alternate GC leader for BMC Racing's Giro d'Italia team, riding onto the podium at Tirreno-Adriatico.

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CIVITANOVA MARCHE, Italy (VN) — BMC Racing is hoping to overthrow the Tirreno-Adriatico race leaders with Rohan Dennis on Tuesday. It is part of an important test run leading to the Giro d’Italia with the Australian and American Tejay van Garderen.

Dennis sits third in the prestigious Italian stage race. Colombian Nairo Quintana (Movistar) leads the race with 50 seconds on Frenchman Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and 1:06 on Dennis.

Dennis, a former world hour record holder, will try to take as much time as possible on them in the stage 7 10-kilometer time trial on Italy’s east coast. The ride could enable him to take second overall or, if he’s lucky, first, which could change BMC’s plans for the Giro.

“We came here, we had our steps,” sports director Max Sciandri told VeloNews. “That was the TTT, we did that. We delivered the guys well in the Terminillo stage. We tried to shake the overall yesterday. We didn’t completely do it, but we made some progress.”

In stage 5, van Garderen attacked in the final and Dennis climbed free with established classification men Quintana, Pinot, Geraint Thomas (Sky), and Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb).

“Steps towards the Giro d’Italia? Yes, but we will assess it tomorrow after the Tirreno-Adriatico. He’s made big steps, yes, but I’m not going to say leader or nothing, he needs to finish tomorrow and we will see where we are.”

Sciandri thinks that Quintana may be out of reach, but that Dennis should “for sure” overtake Pinot in the overall.

BMC Racing already was thinking about Dennis this winter when it planned its 2017 grand tours. It decided to send Richie Porte to the Tour de France alone without van Garderen. He will lead the Giro team, but with Dennis seemingly in an ever-expanding role.

“It’s not what he lacks, but how much can he improve,” Sciandri added. “The glass is half-full. He has no limits, he is motivated to grow and so we’ll see.”

Dennis, 26, began the race well when BMC won the time trial. On the Terminillo summit finish, he placed 15th, 1:17 behind stage winner Quintana.

“To be honest, it’s more important using Tirreno-Adriatico as a stepping stone towards the Giro,” Dennis said. “We go over a lot of the roads that will be challenges in May. It’s a perfect preparation for the Giro.”

After winning the 2015 Tour Down Under and setting the hour record, Dennis wants to see how far he can go in grand tours. He spent more time training this winter on climbs than on his time trial bike.

BMC Racing, as he said, scheduled Tirreno-Adriatico and the Vuelta a Catalunya later this month with the Giro in mind. These races give him a chance to mix climbing and time trialing, and face his Giro rivals alongside van Garderen.

“For March, my shape is a lot better than normal,” Dennis continued. “Most of the time when I come to Europe, I’m getting dropped in the first couple of races, but now, my last race was Provence and the team helped me there [to the overall win].

“Now, I do a quarter of the time trial work I normally would do. I spend a lot more time climbing and do less specific TT stuff. Seventy-five percent of my training is more directed towards to learn how to climb better.”