Unpacking the TTT-How good is Rohan Dennis?- Stage 2 chit chat.
Team Time Trials (TTT) might be the most beautiful but also the hardest aspect of pro cycling and the BMC Racing Team have become the undisputed kings of the discipline, proving this again yesterday with another TTT Grand Tour stage win. If there has been one common theme in their catalogue of TTT success it is the inclusion of Rohan Dennis. Since being signed from Garmin in August 2014, the 27-year-old has been a key player in 8 TTT victories with BMC.
If there is one thing I remember from my short stint with the American registered squad it was the 2015 Tour de Romandie TTT. I was behind Rohan and it was by far the hardest 20 minutes of my cycling career. The key to success in TTTs is keeping the pace as consistent as possible without any spikes or troughs. I still have nightmares of absolutely hangggging in 2nd wheel, with Rohan on the front piercing the cool Swiss air thinking, 'how on god’s green earth am I going to come through and keep this 55kph pace going?' If you can’t keep the pace up, get out and get to the back. There will be teammates on the day that are feeling as strong as an ox and can take up the slack of the guys who are having a shocker. Alas, on that day I was having a shocker. Yesterday BMC would have had boat loads of internal and external pressure to get the job done, with a horrendous Tour de France still seared in their minds after the unfortunate loss of leader Richie Porte on stage 9. Plenty of weight would have fallen on the shoulders of Dennis, and as always, whenever he is asked the big questions he comes up with the big answers. Yesterday he was putting in a massive shift resulting in the South Australian claiming the first leaders red jersey of this year's Vuelta. His second Grand Tours leader's jersey to add to his Maillot Jaune he picked up in 2015. HATS OFF ROHAN!! With added TTT experience from the likes of former TTT world champions Daniel Oss and Tejay Van Garderen, no doubt the confidence and experience would have flowed down into some of the younger, less experienced riders in the squad like Loic Vliegen and Kilian Frankiny who yielded their first Grand Tour success. A great start for the Swiss backed squad who desperately needed that win to keep the pressure from the senior management at bay. With Dennis the hot favourite for the 42km Time Trial on stage 16 and climbing talent in the form of Italian duo Alessandro de Marchi and Damiano Caruso and of course American Tejay Van Garderen who from someone looking in from the outside, has ceased to target GC in Grand Tours, I expect this not to be the only time we see stage success for the boys in red and black.
A shocking day for GC hopefuls Fabio Aru and Romain Bardet who both lost huge chunks of time losing roughly 40 seconds to the likes of Chris Froome and Bob Jungles, who were the major winners amongst the GC favourites. Nibali and Zakarin also didn’t fare much better losing around 30 seconds to Froome. Playing catch up is never an enjoyable task, especially against a rider who possesses the qualities of Froomey, but it will provide good viewing for us watching from home with the first chance to win back time arising as early as stage 3 as the riders adventure into the mountains of Andorra.
Today sees the 198 riders set off from Nimes to Gruissan, where winds gusts of up to 40kph are expected to greet the peloton on the run into the seaside finishing town. We’ve seen winds tear the peloton to shreds in this part of the world in the past a la HTC in the 2009 Tour, splitting the bunch in a clockwork-like effort to set up Mark Cavendish for the win in La Grande Motte. If the wind is a factor today expect the likes of Quickstep to take the initiative like they did in stage 3 of the Giro this year. Don’t be surprised to see the Trek-Segafredo duo of John Degenkolb and Edward Theuns to be there in the final kms of the stage regardless of the scenario. The strong Dane from Orica-Scott Magnus Cort Neilsen and the ultra-crafty man from Aqua Blue Sport's Adam Blythe are the other riders that should be under careful watch in the finale of stage 2.
Alright, I'll see you back at the social club