It’s just over five months since a despondent Rohan Dennis climbed off his bike during stage 12 of the Tour de France and walked off into the night.
Exactly why the two-time world time trial champion quit his fourth Tour de France remains a mystery.
There were suggestions he was dissatisfied with equipment, his bike, his skin-suit and even Bahrain-Merida’s insistence that he should race in the services of Vincenzo Nibali.
Ten weeks later, speculation grew over a potential split between Bahrain-Merida and the fiery Australian when he raced on an unbranded black BMC Time Machine bicycle instead of his Bahrain team frame during the time trial World Championships in September.
It was later confirmed that the Gulf outfit had terminated his contract, bringing an end to barely one season in the red jersey.
But, like any top rider, it’s not long before a rival will express interest and Dennis achieved a life-long dream when putting pen to paper on a two-year deal with Team Ineos earlier this month.
Quite how this move plays out over the next 12 months remains to be seen, with many believing Ineos and the Australian are a solid match, while others think his signing is a massive risk.
The Adelaide man, with two world titles and an Olympic silver medal to his name, is a clear perfectionist, demanding the very best when it comes to equipment and team-mates’ commitment to the cause. Team Ineos’ clear attention to detail and deep pockets are sure to get the best out of Dennis.
His talent, ambitions and power on the saddle is clear, but there is also a danger associated with his signature.
A headstrong figure, he has a bite and desire that you can’t teach a sport star, one that is perhaps rooted in him mentally since starting his journey as a pro rider. Traits that don’t earn you individual time trial world titles and victories in three Grand Tours for nothing.
It’s what makes him fascinating, someone who has the ability to spur on his team-mates and also berate them if they are not pushing their weight. Given the role he played for Michael Matthews in the 2017 world road race championships, added to his own world title triumphs, he demonstrated his unselfish team playing abilities.
However, on the other side of it, his rare mid-season switch from Garmin-Sharp to BMC Racing in 2014 to his contract termination at Bahrain-Merida shows a rider who may not take advice and fit into team structures well. Especially when he is not going to be the central figure.
Ineos have shown over the years that they are willing to throw money at marquee names and are a key Grand Tour winning machine, with no signs of slowing down either after Egan Bernal’s (22) Tour triumph in July and the capture of Giro d’Italia winner Richard Carapaz (26) from Team Movistar.
It’s difficult to know if the same will be expected of Dennis. There is enough Grand Tour winning class at Team Ineos, which bodes the argument as to why David Brailsford opted to sign a 29-year-old and go against the recent structure of recruiting younger riders.
Brailsford is a clever man and has proven that on numerous occasions during his ten years at the helm of cycling’s dominant force. Through criticism and high levels of pressure, he has – most of the time – come out on the right side.
With his acquisition of Dennis, he must feel the potential rewards outweigh the risks of that patchy record of his new man.
In short term, Dennis has confirmed that he is targeting the Olympic Games time trial in July and the World Championships in September. At both events, he will be sporting the Australian colours and not the Ineos shirt.
Winning trophies for his country will of course add to the publicity for Ineos and their sponsors, but it should be further down the priority list compared to success with a decorated team who are paying him over $1.1 million per season.
With a quick turn around in time between the Tour de France and the Olympics, Dennis will miss out on the team’s bid for a stunning eighth victory in nine years. Instead, he’ll ride at the Giro d’Italia in May, where he will be among the favourites in the three individual time trials on stages 1, 14 and 21.
The Andorra resident is the perfect cog to support Bernal, Thomas or Carapaz in Italy, but whether he commits 100 per cent to the cause is something we will only know during the race itself, especially with the final time trial coming at the end of a brutal final week in the mountains.
For some, Dennis was not a risk worth taking based on his chequered past but, at 29 and entering his peak, he could be that small missing piece to inspire his new team-mates to further success.
Know more about Sport360 Application