Saturday July 4.
Utrecht Individual Time Trial
1st – Rohan Dennis, BMC Racing Team - 14:56
2nd – Tony Martin, Etixx - Quick Step
3rd – Fabian Cancellara, Trek Factory Racing
General Classification – Rohan Dennis, BMC Racing Team
Sprint Competition – Rohan Dennis
Best Young Rider – Rohan Dennis
Team Competition - LottoNL - Jumbo
Here it is! The 102nd edition of this historic race promised to be one of the most hotly contested events in recent history. Up to 10 serious GC contenders this year, all coming into the race with great form.
Nibali coming into the race fresh from his National Championship win, Contador backing up after winning the Giro d'Italia, Chris Froome hoping to stay upright through the first week and stand victorious again at Paris, the Columbian climbing sensation Quintana... the list goes on... Van Garderen, Costa, Talansky, Pinot and the AG2R La Mondiale duo of Bardet and Peraud.
The 2015 tour has all the makings of a classic.
Stage 1 took place in and around the town of Utrecht in the Netherlands. The stage is the only individual time trial in the tour, sure to please some GC contenders. Although the stage was rather short for a Grand Tour's Individual Time Trial, it was over 8 kilometres, making it officially a time trial rather then a prologue.
The pancake flat 13.8km course made for some fast and powerful racing. The unique distance was long enough for the GC contenders to make some small gains (or losses), not long enough for the true TT specialists to dominate, and the perfect distance to offer a glimmer of hope to the stronger rouleurs for a surprise victory.
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The early time checks were fast! At the 7.1km checkpoint riders were consistently clocking an average speed in excess of 55kph. But just as consistently, rider after rider would struggle through the second half of the course and drop well below the strong early pace.
That was until Rohan Dennis of BMC Racing Team produced a superb ride. Despite almost running into a barrier, Dennis passed his 1min man Lars Bak of Lotto Soudal and set the benchmark for all others to chase. The one time hour record holder averaged 55.4kph across the course, which broke the record for the fastest ever time trial at the Tour de France.
Local hero Tom Dumoulin of Giant - Alpecin was the first rider to seriously challenge Dennis, one second behind at the half way point, but fading to trail the young Australian by 8 seconds at the finish. Next to challenge was the current German Time Trial Champion and previous World Time Trial Champion Tony Martin of Etixx - Quick Step. Martin couldn't match the ride from Dennis either, 3 seconds down at the halfway point and 5 seconds down at the finish. Fabian Cancellara of Trek Factory Racing was another challenger to come close but fell agonisingly short, 6 seconds on the line.
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With only the GC contenders left, Dennis looked like the stage winner, but a great deal of interest hung on the results of the race favourites. At the end of the stage less than half a minute separated the top contenders.
Thibaut Pinot of FDJ taking a small psychological advantage. 1 second ahead of BMC Racing Team rider Tejay van Gardenren, 2 seconds ahead of defending champion Vincenzo Nibali of Astana Pro Team, 9 seconds over Chris Froome of Team Sky, 17 seconds from Alberto Contador of Tinkoff - Saxo and 20 seconds ahead of Nairo Quintana of Movistar.
We can only hope the race for yellow is this tight going into the final week.
It was a long time for the young Aussie in the hot seat, but try as they might, no one could match the time set by Rohan Dennis. He was the only rider to come in under the 15minute mark, and his effort makes him just the 7th Aussie to wear the yellow jersey.
We look forward to tomorrow's stage covering 166km and only 365m of elevation. It is sure to be a day for the fast men.