By Rob Arnold
The Tour de France’s 12th stage was a chance for Australia’s Rohan Dennis to play to his strengths, but instead the time trial world champion abruptly abandoned the Tour midway through the stage, leaving his Bahrain-Merida team perplexed.
- Australian rider Rohan Dennis quit the race midway through 12th stage without explanation
- Dennis had been instructed by his team to ride conservatively to save energy for the time trial
- Bahrain-Merida says it is too soon to tell if there would be “consequences” for Dennis
“Let’s say that I am disappointed about what happened with Rohan today because, actually, we expected a big effort from him,” said Gorazd Stangelj, the sports director from Bahrain-Merida.
“We tried to speak with him … and tried to find a solution about what’s going on.
“He said, ‘I don’t want to talk.’ And just abandoned the race.”
Instead of riding conservatively and saving energy for the time trial, as he had been instructed to do by Stangelj, Dennis simply quit the race without explanation.
According to French TV, Dennis was seen arguing with his team car before dismounting, but Stangelj said he “knew nothing about it”.
Numerous attempts were made to contact his personal manager Andrew McQuaid to find out the reason for the retirement, but he did not return any calls.
A few hours earlier, Dennis was seen leaving the race, escorted by McQuaid.
Exactly where they went and why the world champion quit his fourth Tour de France remains something of a mystery.
There was a conference involving Dennis and McQuaid taking place near the Bahrain-Merida team bus about an hour before the start of stage 12.
This is common at the Tour, managers are often on site and in discussion with riders, particularly on the eve of an important time trial — one that Dennis has said he was targeting at this year’s Tour.
When this reporter approached Dennis, he made it abundantly clear he wasn’t interested in talking.
But at that point, conflict between the rider and his team was apparent.
‘You better f***ing do it’
The kerfuffle has left many involved in the Tour confused, but there are suggestions of some dissatisfaction with equipment — his time trial bike and his skin-suit.
Another theory is that it may relate to an issue regarding his status on the Bahrain-Merida team, and the management’s insistence that Dennis should play second-fiddle to 2014 Tour champion, Vincenzo Nibali.
Previously, Dennis has said his team’s work on equipment with its new partner McLaren was “trying to replicate what I’ve had in previous years”.
“At the moment, nothing has moved forward yet but there are plenty of plans in place for the rest of the season,” he said.
Filip Tisma, team mechanic at Bahrain-Merida, said Dennis was particular about his equipment.
“It pushes everybody to do their best,” Tisma said.
“He is one of those guys who would insist on getting things exactly the way he wants it.
“Once you tell him something is doable, he’s adamant: ‘You better f***ing do it!'” Tisma said.
Stangelj also acknowledged Dennis’s competitive passion.
“He’s, let’s say, really 100 per cent when he wants something and it’s difficult to make everybody happy in every single moment,” Stangelj said.
“Now is the time to clear things up, to make decisions for the future,” he added, stressing it was too soon to tell whether there would be “consequences” for Dennis.
Presently, his team still doesn’t know what triggered the abrupt exit, but hours after the incident it said on Twitter that it would launch an investigation.