Don't miss a moment from Paris-Roubaix and Unbound Gravel, to the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, Vuelta a España, and everything in between when you join Outside+.
VILLARS, Switzerland (VN) – Cycling can be a cruel and unpredictable sport.
On Saturday Jumbo-Visma declared it had left the peloton “demoralized” after the team had nullified its opposition on the mountaintop finish to Zinal and left leader Rohan Dennis within touching distance of the overall win at the Tour de Romandie.
Twenty-four hours later and the roles were reversed.
Dennis’ first word to the media after a crushing time trial defeat was ‘sorry’, while his team director Merijn Zeeman was left to analyze a bruising day in which the Australian had dropped from first to eighth overall, conceding over two minutes to stage victor and overall winner, Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) in the process.
The final stage, a 15.8km mountain time trial to Villars, was supposed to be a confirmation of Dennis’s growing stature at Jumbo-Visma, and the biggest stage race win of his career. He had shown nothing but strength throughout the week, while the team looked like a well-oiled machine at every time.
Come the finish, however, the atmosphere around the Jumbo-Visma bus was one of shock and disappointment.
“Sorry. I’m absolutely spent,” Dennis said when he came to the media after his 22nd place on the stage.
The profile of the course was effectively two time trials in one with a short flat section followed by a final 10km climb. Dennis had looked comfortable all week whenever the road pointed upwards but the opening five days were in hindsight deceptive, and the Australian pondered whether he had done too much work earlier in the race.
“I had nothing left in the final half of the climb and it was just a fight,” he said. “The week has taken its toll, fighting each day. It was a great week with the team. I want to thank them for their work this week. They’ve given me all the respect possible but I just couldn’t finish it off on the day.”
Back at the team bus and his director Zeeman gave just as much honesty when it came to the performance. Zeeman is the sort of team boss who stands by his riders, and while he waxed lyrical about Dennis’s progress after Zinal, he also fronted up when it came to what happened on the final stage. There was no blame, just a fair reflection of what had happened.
“He just didn’t have the power,” Zeeman told VeloNews.
“He gave everything that he had. This was what was in the body today. He was fast on the TT bike but on the climb he lacked the power. He was losing time compared to Steven [Kruijswijk] as we had the intermediate times, so we could tell that it wasn’t going in the right direction. It’s a 10km climb so it’s an all-out effort, and that’s what he had in his legs.”
“On the other hand, when we were coming here we had no ambition of winning but if you’re in the second last day and leading then you start to believe in it. Strategy wise we tried to slow it down yesterday but that took power. After yesterday he was cramping and tired. The power wasn’t there to be competitive for the win or to stay in the overall. It’s a disappointment but seventh and eighth, that’s what it is now. It was an honest climb and you have to leave it all on the road.”
Back at the finish line and Dennis was asked what he had learned from the week.
It was probably too soon to reflect on what had just happened given that neither the Australian nor the race as a whole saw this result coming.
But there are several positive aspects that will eventually wear through. It will no doubt take time to get over the dramatic loss in Romandie but Dennis looked at his very best for the opening five days of racing, and with the Tour de France on the horizon there is plenty to focus on.
“I’m never going to be a GC leader in a grand tour,” Dennis said. “Maybe I fought too much in the first couple of days to gain as much time as possible but in the end it’s a good test to see what i can do for the Roglič and Vingegaard at the Tour.”