The feisty Australian charged back after the Tour de France fallout and in his first race back, competing in national colors, won the time trial world championship. That and the road race days later were his only races since the Tour this summer and without a team, his future appears uncertain.
A source who knows Dennis well told VeloNews that he is losing over one million euro (1.2 million U.S.D) in his contractual battle.
Dennis declined to comment on the story.
Dennis left the Tour de France on the eve of the Pau time trial when he would have made his rainbow jersey debut at the Tour as the 2018 world champion. McLaren, the new co-sponsor for 2020, sent its top team representative from England to Southern France for the day and staff anxiously awaited the possibility of an important stage win.
Midway to Bagnères-de-Bigorre in stage 12, however, Dennis climbed off his bike and argued with the team. The details around the incident were never fully explained. He did not race afterwards until the Worlds.
Only days after he won the worlds time trial title in Yorkshire, Bahrain-Merida announced it terminated his contract a year early. It said that it did so on September 13, but waited to announce it so that Dennis could fully concentrate on the time trial – which he won with a massive 1:09-minute gap over Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-Quick-Step).
The source explained the details behind the scenes as Dennis fought to save his contract worth €1.5 million.
Dennis met with Bahrain-Merida brass after the Tour incident and when the team agreed to keep him, he turned his back. He shopped around for new contracts with his agent in August and September, but no one was biting. When he went back to Bahrain-Merida, they said ‘no’.
The decision was sealed when Dennis rode the time trial championships on a non-team bike and with non-team kit, without even the mention of Bahrain-Merida. The source pointed out that Dennis could have won on any bike given his strength, and had he done so with Merida’s bike instead of an older BMC frame then maybe the team would not have confirmed its decision. However, on September 29, Bahrain-Merida announced it was over.
Dennis and his agent have taken the decision to the UCI Arbitration Panel saying it was a breach of contract “actually causing, and with malicious intent to cause, damage to the health and reputation of Mr. Dennis.”
It turned out to be a million-dollar mistake, or $1.38 million (€1.25m) because the source explained that the best Dennis has been able to find for 2020 is a €250,000 contract because teams don’t have space or are worried about his reliability.
Dennis’s agent was unavailable when reached for comment on this article.
In the last months, Dennis has been linked with Teams Ineos, CCC, and Movistar. Dennis rode with Team BMC Racing, now CCC, for five years before joining Bahrain-Merida. If he were to join Team Ineos, he would join a roster of strong time trial riders including Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas and Vasil Kiryienka, the 2015 champion.