“Every time I have been to California I have always aimed for the top step and this year is no different”, the time-trial World champion says ahead of his comeback to a career-defining race.
Rohan Dennis (Bahrain-Merida) is not only a superb time-trialist (although he rules the discipline as the reigning World champion) and the American fans know it well. Three participations in USA’s WorldTour stage race allowed him to show an extended range of talents, including in the high mountains with a win up Mount Diablo, and prove to himself he is one of the most talented riders in the peloton. They also cemented a strong bond between the Australian champ and California, where he comes back this May.
“I love the Amgen Tour of California and I have really missed it over the last two seasons”, Dennis states ahead of his fourth participation. “It’s a hard race but not stressful so in my eyes it’s a great way to find your legs and still be able to enjoy it. Every time I have been to California I have always aimed for the top step and this year is no different. The only difference this year is that I don’t have a time-trial to help me with that.”
With his impressive record (7 wins out of 9 TTs ridden in 2018), an individual time-trial would definitely have bolstered Dennis’ chances for the overall title. History shows he won the TT in Folsom last time he raced in California, back in 2016, but Julian Alaphilippe won overall while the Australian came second. History also shows that without the TT dominated by Bradley Wiggins in 2014 (Dennis finished 2nd), he could have won the Amgen Tour of California at 24 years old, thanks to a stellar ride up Mount Diablo - he finished 2nd overall, 30” behind Wiggins.
“I honestly wasn’t feeling great that day”, Dennis recalls five years after his stage win at Mount Diablo. “I crashed on stage 1 pretty hard and it knocked me around a bit.” So what do you do when you have such an engine but are not feeling so well? “I simply just switched my brain off after about half way and I really only believed I could give the stage a crack at 1.5km to go.” His powerful acceleration in the final indeed offered him his first Amgen Tour of California stage victory, in a place that had already proved defining in his young career.
A year ago, Rohan Dennis was discovering the WorldTour and riding his first Amgen Tour of California, already featuring a stage finish up Mount Diablo. “It was hot and a very hard race”, Dennis says. “I struggled a lot but I also found my legs later in the race with a podium in the TT and nearly held on to the front group on Diablo. This was my first memory of California and actually the first time I started believing that I am able to be a good pro cyclist.”
This wasn’t the first time Rohan Dennis visited California, as the West Coast was already featuring in an American road-trip he did with his best friend in 2012. “It was a great time with absolutely no bike riding at all”, he says, elaborating on how much he loves “the little things” of California, for example being able to get a burrito in just about any little suburb or town”. Welcome back to California, Rohan!