Five months have passed since Rohan Dennis abandoned the Tour de France in mysterious circumstances, climbing off the bike seemingly without cause during stage 12, the day before the race’s major time trial.
It transpired that he had been dissatisfied with the equipment provided by his Bahrain-Merida team, and had gone home in protest.
In late September he rode to his second individual time trial world championship in as many years, on a BMC bike without logos. Later, he took to the front of the road race on a BMC bike, with the logo front and centre for all to see.
Dennis’ choice of bike provided some much-needed drama during the long slog that was the men’s road race, but it was later revealed that by the time he had become a double world champion – and by the time he had supposedly sent a poorly coded message containing his thoughts about his current team with his bike choice – Bahrain-Merida and Dennis had already agreed he didn’t ride for them anymore.
In fact, he had been a free agent since September 13th. So it was time for him to find a new team.
He was linked with CCC, Movistar, and Trek-Segafredo, but the team that seemed the most obvious fit (partly due to the fact they were probably one of the only teams who could afford such a high-profile late transfer) was Team Ineos.
Cycling News first reported Dennis was heading there in October, but only this week has it been confirmed.
The announcement by Ineos that they had signed the sought-after Australian was accompanied with a video interview. Dennis stated in it his major objectives for the year: the Giro d’Italia – where there will be three individual time trials, including one to open the race, giving him a chance to wear the maglia rosa – and the individual time trial at the Tokyo Olympic Games in July.
Presumably, he will also go on to try defend his world title later in the year.
2020 then has all the hallmarks of a career-defining year for Dennis. He could win three stages of the same Grand Tour, no mean feat for a non-sprinter. And he could finally win one of his major career goals: an Olympic gold medal.
He looked well set to medal in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, only for his handlebars to snap 20 kilometres from the finish. He had to change bikes, costing him vital seconds, and eventually finished fifth. He definitely missed out on the podium, he possibly missed out on the win.
Part of the prestige and allure of the Olympics is that they only happen every four years. An athlete is lucky if two Games fall within the peak of their career. Dennis will be 30 when he rolls off the start ramp in Tokyo. It would be a stretch to say that if he is rolling off the start ramp at 34 in 2024, he will be among the favourites, particularly with cycling’s incredible recent crop of young talent.
If he then adds another rainbow jersey at the 2020 Road World Championships, he will join countryman Michael Rogers on three, and be just one behind time trialling royalty Fabian Cancellara and Tony Martin, who both have four jerseys in their lockers.
If he meets these objectives – and it is a big if, he will be competing with at least one of Primoz Roglic and Tom Dumoulin at the Giro, as well as Victor Campanaerts, who has made the Giro d’Italia time trials his major target, and with the likes of Dumoulin, Remco Evenepoel and Filippo Ganna at the Olympics and the world championships – he will cement his place as one of the best Australian cyclists of his generation, perhaps of all time.
Should his move to Ineos not be a success, Dennis risks one of the more defining moments of his career being the moment he climbed off in the 2019 Tour, rather than trying to win the time trial the next day adorned in the rainbow jersey.
He is now ensconced in a team with incredible money, resources, equipment, and their infamous ‘marginal gains’.
He has everything he could possibly need to succeed. Now he just has to go and do it.