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Cycling Australia may as well give Rohan Dennis its coveted ‘Oppy’ award for season 2015 right now.
The South Australian is living up to the huge potential that we all suspected he had, and thoroughly deserves Australia’s most prestigious cycling trophy.
The ‘Oppy’ is awarded each year to the Australian cyclist of the year and has been won in recent times by other road cyclists such as Simon Gerrans, Cadel Evans and Robbie McEwen.
It might be time to add the name Rohan Dennis to that list.
He certainly fulfils the criteria which states the award will go to the best all-round performing cyclist who also displays a high level of sportsmanship and is an ambassador for the sport of cycling.
His closest rival from the road cycling world would be Richie Porte, who has claimed overall victory at Paris-Nice, Volta Ciclista a Catalunya and Giro del Trentino-Melinda. But if we are to follow Cycling Australia’s award criteria, Dennis has to have his nose ahead simply for being the best all-round cyclist.
He has excelled both on the road and on the track this year, and not many cyclists can successfully combine the two.
His stellar performance in the individual time trial on the opening day of the Tour de France was spectacular. It broke a long-standing average speed record and earned the BMC rider his first yellow jersey.
He lost the jersey on a windy Stage 2, caught out by multiple splits in the peloton, but could rest easy as his team leader Tejay van Garderen was safely ensconced in the front group. Team tactics dictated that he shouldn’t chase, and he didn’t.
It has been a season of triumphs for the 25-year-old, one in which he not only claimed the general classification of the season-opening Tour Down Under, but also briefly held the world hour record on the track.
That hardly seemed possible early in January, when a group of concerned cycling journalists watched as the rider they were supposed to be interviewing after the time trial event at the Australian national championships in Buninyong collapsed post race.
On that day a rampant Richie Porte had ridden a stunning race over the undulating course in miserable and cold weather, relegating Dennis to second place and a world of hurt.
Later, after Dennis had recovered sufficiently to sit upright, SBS journalist Anthony Tan asked what the rest of us were thinking. His line of questioning went along the lines of, “How can you expect to break the hour record if you are suffering like this after a 50-minute ride which only covered 40 kilometres?”
He’d finished only eight seconds down on Porte, but it seemed a stretch that this boy struggling to breathe and maintain his balance in a leaky marquee somewhere in the back streets of Buninyong could fight his way to the season that he has.
But he has, and all recognition to him.
It takes more than just luck to win an individual time trial stage at the Tour de France. It takes talent, buckets of the stuff, especially on Day 1 when every time triallist worth their weight in power bars is gunning for not only victory, but a chance to wear the hallowed Maillot Jaune.
And at the Tour that means the best of the best. Tony Martin and Fabian Cancellara are multiple world champions in the time trialling discipline and Cancellara has made a career out of posting great prologue or time trial times early in the Tour to claim the yellow jersey.
To beat both of them into second and third respectively, as Dennis has done, is a stunning effort.
Having said that, Martin and Cancellara still have the edge over Dennis in one very important aspect – killer nickames!
Martin is the ‘Panzerwagen’ as he is as dangerous and unstoppable as an armoured vehicle or a tank!
Cancellara has long been known as ‘Spartacus’, as tough as a gladiator and equally hard to defeat.
Dennis is known as, well, Rohan. And while that is a pleasant enough name it hardly strikes fear into the heart and minds of his opponents.
He needs a memorable nickname and who better to give him one than my fellow Roarers. It would need to be uniquely Australian, something like the ‘Flying Kangaroo’ but with more grit and menace.
So hit me with your suggestions Roarers. Who knows? Something might catch on!