Australia’s Rohan Dennis claimed his second consecutive UCI world title as he outclassed all his rivals in the individual time trial on day four of the 2019 UCI Road World Championships. Belgian prodigy Remco Evenepoel took a historic silver medal at the age of just 19, one year after becoming the Junior UCI World Champion in both the road race and time trial. Italy’s Filippo Ganna rounded out the podium.
It was unclear whether Dennis would be at his competitive best as he hadn’t taken part in any race since his dramatic and unexplained departure from the Tour de France on the eve of the individual time trial in Pau. The Australian warned that his numbers at training were excellent and that proved to be correct as he registered the fastest times all along the 54km course from Northallerton to Harrogate.
“I didn’t go without a lot of preparation: a lot of time at home, a lot of work on my head to get myself mentally prepared for today,” said Dennis after firstly sharing his joy with his wife Melissa and their young child. “It’s been a lot tougher than what it looked out there for me. There’s a lot of people to thank, and, look, it’s just good to repay then on a day that really matters.
“I knew what pace I went out with last year, so I just stuck on that and got into my rhythm. I knew I was 20 seconds up at the first check and I knew I had more to give, that I wasn’t going to die on the climbs. I had [Australian national coach] Brad McGee in my ear and my coach in the passenger seat the whole time talking me through it. It was absolutely perfect today.”
In the hot seat
British national champion for individual and team pursuit, John Archibald – who substituted Geraint Thomas – delighted the home crowds by setting leading reference times at intermediate check points and on the finish line where he posted 1.08.16 at an average speed of 47.5km/h. Australia’s Luke Durbridge was first to beat the Scot but another Briton, Alex Dowsett, briefly took the lead after completing the course at 48.3km/h, just before Filippo Ganna took up position in the hot seat.
Then Evenepoel, who held all the best time checks - before being outclassed by Dennis - relegated the Italian to second, and the fight for bronze looked like being between Ganna and Nelson Oliveira. The Portuguese was five seconds down on his rival at km 16.7 and five seconds ahead of him at km 37.7, but he suffered in the final sector, conceding to New Zealand’s Patrick Bevin who only missed out on the third place by two seconds.
Beating the Belgians
Dennis wasn’t even perturbed by the rain that started while he was on track. But Evenepoel was the only lucky Belgian of the day as his compatriots Yves Lampaert and Victor Campenaerts – who had foreseen a possible one-two-three for his country beforehand – went down. Therefore, Dennis, a former UCI Hour Record holder himself, overhauled Campenaerts, the current record-holder, before the halfway point of the race.
The Australian also caught Primož Roglič, who won La Vuelta a España ten days earlier, but the Slovenian, who had obviously lost his best form, showed some pride to remain in contact with Dennis, and even tried to outsprint him on the line in front of the large crowd in Harrogate. Dennis was well informed of his big advantage – 1’08’’ over Evenepoel and 1’55’’ over Ganna – so he could celebrate by raising his hands up in the air like in a road race, and pointed to his head.
“It’s really special to back up this year and come here in the best possible shape to defend this title and show that I haven’t hung up the bike,” said Dennis. “I’m here to race and I’m here to win. I’ve got more to show in this sport yet. It was good to really get out there today and hit it out and smash it.”