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Neeltje Jans - Zeeland - Netherlands - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Dennis Rohan (BMC Racing Team) pictured during le Tour de France 2015 - stage 2 - from Utrecht to Neeltje Jans (Zeeland) -166 KM - on sunday 05-07-2015 - photo Dion Kerckhoffs//Davy Rietbergen/Cor Vos © 2015

BMC’s Rohan Dennis Gets PEZ’d

Rider Interview: Hour record, Tour de France stages, World and National titles, Tour Down Under and a bag full of other top wins, that is the palmarès of BMC’s Rohan Dennis and he’s still only 25. Will he be the next Grand tour GC man to come from team pursuiting? He thinks so.

With the Tour Down Under just starting it’s the right time to talk to last years winner, Rohan Dennis. 2015 was a busy year for the young Australian, his first full season with the BMC team, we find out all about it and his hopes for the future.

Santos Tour Down Under 2016 saturday
Before the start of the Tour Down Under 2016

This time last year you were preparing for the hour record, how will your preparation change for this January?
Rohan Dennis:
It has changed a little bit, fitness wise I’m as good as last year, but in a different way. Last year there was a lot of threshold work, a lot of VO2 work leading into the hour record making sure I had that high intensity under my belt. This year we have looked more at base miles along with the specific work for time trialling for the National championships. That is a big goal of mine to get that title (which he did, beating BMC teammate Richie Porte). I think, over the last weeks, I have proven to myself that things are on the right track for the Tour Down Under. It’s just about not getting too stressed out about it, getting a result there and coming in easy, mentally, as possible.

WK in Richmond, USA - men elite TT 2015
In Australian colors

Did the hour record over-shadow the first half of your season?
There is a lot of media attention around the hour record and it’s always related to someone who has had the hour record and that’s great. I don’t think it overshadowed it too much, it brought a lot of attention the team and myself and that had its negatives and positives, it put more pressure on me to perform in time trials and knowing what Wiggins had done and what he had done previously before that, everyone expected me to be able to perform on the road instantly. It takes time to come back as it does after doing a big track block. It didn’t bother me that much, I just chipped away at what I needed to do and tried to keep my head down and out of trouble.

Rohan Dennis: hour record
The Hour Record

How did taking the hour record affect you mentally?
It was a massive high, but a huge low afterwards. Because it was such a big high and I tried to switch off straight away and I stayed off the bike for four or five days, that doesn’t seem like a lot of time off the bike, but honestly I just switched off and that was harder mentally more than physically. I went to Paris-Nice and my first blow was losing that prologue… that sucked. Then every race felt like I was battling and a lot of the time people would say ‘you’ve had a great year in 2015’ but then if you line up all the things I had achieved, it was nine wins all up, but there was a massive period from the hour record till the Dauphine that I didn’t get a win. That was eating away at me and one of my big goals was Romandia and to try and podium, at least get top five there and on the last road stage I just blew. I just didn’t have it. I also look at the things I didn’t achieve on my goals list and find out why and what I can better. A lot of people look at what they have achieved and I did look at them as well, but if you always beat your own drum and don’t look at how you can improve, then you don’t move forward. That was more of the focus since the Worlds really.

Tour de France 2015 - stage 2
In Tour yellow

A lot of people would say you had a great year.
Yeah, I had a great year… it was a great year. But I have this issue of wanting more and it’s brought me undone, but it also made me have such a great year, last year. You can ask my girlfriend; I beat my head against a brick wall and I drive her up the wall as well and drive her nuts, she wants to kill me sometimes because I’m like; ‘why can’t I win?’ She says that I have won ten times more than most people do in a whole career. I want to win that, though and why didn’t I win it? What was the big reason why? Sometimes I don’t know the answer straight away.

Have you always been like that?
Eh… I think so, yeah. As far as I know. Depends on what it is, with school work it died off, by year 8 or 9, I became… ‘yeah whatever’.

stage 4 - Criterium du Dauphine Libere 2015
BMC working for Rohan

After the big goal of the hour record, what was the next big goal?
I think the Tour de France was probably bigger. That was the driving force behind everything, but I didn’t feel like there were any positives, there were little things, like in Belgium, I had good form there, I was working for Greg. The Dauphine, leading the Tour for two days, that give you a little bit of confidence in what you are doing. Then at the Tour, obviously, there was big pressure and to be honest it, once again, was hard to bounce back, but the team time trial kept my head on, but once that was done I just flicked all my aspiration of stage wins and even before that for the team time trial. As long as you keep racing, I think, and you keep your mind active, you actually can stay at a good level, but if you just go; stop and try to drop and rebuild, that’s when the tough times sort of come. The tough times in my little circle, obviously from the outside, looks quite rosy, but yeah.

Will it be the Tour again in 2016?
Yeah, initially we were thinking of the Giro, but I pushed for the Tour de France to be on the plan for me, obviously health, injury and form dependent. The biggest reason for that is that the winners of any Olympics have usually come from the Tour de France. So I want to give myself the best chance possible and not try and break suit at a young age when I probably need that bit of race fitness, you could say, to win that golden ring.

Santos Tour Down-Under 2015 stage - 3
Stage 3 win in the 2015 Tour Down Under

Would you say that the hour record messed up the start of your year?
Actually I think I went to a new level, physically, but it was more a mental thing that hurt me a little bit more. All of a sudden there were days out training that I was going a lot better than the year before and once I had recovered and got a race under my belt, I actually was training harder and better than I ever had before. I think doing an hour at threshold, just about, that mental side of it was a good sort of way to see where my breaking point was. It was just the racing side and getting around other people, not just worrying about yourself, trying to fight for your position, it’s not a time trial anymore and that’s when the doubt comes into your mind, it’s more than an hour, it’s four hours now and things like this are completely different.

USA Pro Challenge 2013 (2.HC) stage - 6
In the leaders jersey at the 2015 USA Pro Challenge

Where do you see your career going?
At the moment I’m looking towards time trials, last year I tried to push the envelope with GC, I think I may have tried to bite off more than I could chew. Obviously all the things I tried last year, if I had tried to throw more things in, it would have watered down everything and you don’t get the goals you really want. You get the little things leading to the big thing, but you fail with the big things. So at the moment time trials are my big goal along with some week long tours would be good, with obviously a time trial, like the Tour Down Under, that suits me pretty well. Long term I want to work towards GC after Rio, that’s really the big goal for me. Ive heard people say, ‘do I want to sacrifice six years or four of your career from Rio onwards to see if maybe you become a GC contender’. My argument is: ‘Did you? Did you regret doing it when you tried’ or if I didn’t do it and I got to 35, which is probably when I would think about retiring, I have to get there first, and I didn’t try and stuck with something I know I’m good at, time trialing, would I be kicking myself and saying what if? Why didn’t I try it?

Santos Tour Down-Under 2015 stage - 5
On the attack with Richie Porte in the TDU

But there have been many guys who have come from the same team pursuit background as you, that have moved on to be GC men.
Yeah, there are plenty. It’s not rare anymore, a lot of the guys recently, more so. Geraint Thomas is the next one who looks like being the next GC guy from a track back ground, Wiggins before that. It wasn’t normal back in the day, but it’s probably because a lot of people didn’t take that plunge and lose that amount of weight and trying to become a hill climber and also if you are a GC rider with a TT background, who says you can’t be the best of both. Wiggins did it.

Tour de France 2015 - stage 1
Taking the 2015 Tour stage 1 and the yellow jersey

Will you have another go at the hour record?
Yes, but not for a while though. I think I need to get that strength behind me, probably more Grand Tours, age is a huge thing and I think I have to look at position, time of the year, a lot of factors. I think after a Grand Tour might be the best time, but that also depends on how I come out of that Grand Tour. When Wiggins did it in June was probably perfect after a big block of racing, instead of just one race. A fast track, not that Grenchen isn’t, but London is also a very quick track, it was warmer. There are a whole lot of factors that have to be taken into account.

I think I would have to set some kind of time limit, if say by 2020 if I can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel, especially with the Tour de France. I’ll head towards the Giro or the Vuelta and get some sort of experience leading one and possibly becoming a winner of one of them first, not that they are easier, but there isn’t the depth in one of those Grand Tours. Maybe I’ll start aiming for one of them before I come back to the Tour de France. The Tour de France is the pinnacle I think.

Will you aim at the Tour before trying to win a Giro or a Vuelta?
I’ve got a lot to learn, but obviously if I’m going to the Tour de France I’ll learn a lot from guys like Tejay and Richie, especially over the next two years and then depending on where my trajectory is, maybe I’ll start becoming more of a leader in the Grand Tours and start fighting for that position also. Just like Tejay did with Cadel. Things happen and maybe I’ll have to go to a Giro or Vuelta and come back and really contend for the Tour.

#Thanks to BMC’s Georges Lüchinger for his help with the interview and good luck to Rohan.#

stage 4 - Criterium du Dauphine Libere 2015
Vincenzo Nibali keeping an eye on Dennis in the Dauphine

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