Snapped handlebar derails Dennis in time trial

Published 11 August 2016 (AEDT)

Australia's Rohan Dennis in the men's time trial. © 2016 Getty Images

CYCLING: A snapped handlebar derailed Australia’s Rohan Dennis’ podium aspirations as he finished fifth in the individual road time trial, on a tricky course in Pontal on Wednesday.

Forced to make a bike change inside the final 10 kilometres of the 54km race while sitting in the silver medal position, Dennis regrouped and powered to the finish, but the loss of momentum cost him dearly and he finished just eight seconds shy of the podium.

2008 champion Fabian Cancellara (SUI) claimed his second Olympic gold by 47 seconds over Tom Dumoulin (NED), with Chris Froome (GBR) a further 15 seconds back.

“I can still be proud of how I rode,” said Dennis, who revealed that despite the midrace mishap, he never gave up hope of the podium.

“Even after until the mechanical, the change of bikes and still finishing off, I was thinking go hard, don’t give in.

“I was thinking that first was probably out of the question, but a medal at the Olympics is still up for grabs.

“These things happen, I can’t be too disappointed as it (the mechanical) is out of my control.”

Reigning national champion Dennis was the eighth-last rider from a field of 37 riders to roll from the start ramp to begin the first of two laps of the 29.86km circuit, with the scattered rain and wind that had featured in the earlier women’s race staying away throughout the men’s final.

A known fast starter in the race against the clock, Dennis trailed Cancellara by less than one second at the first time check after 10kms.

At the halfway mark, Dennis appeared perfectly positioned to claim just Australia’s second ever Olympic time trial medal as he clocked the fastest time by 15 seconds over pre-race favourite Dumoulin.

At check point three (34km), Cancellera had regained the lead by 18 seconds over Dennis, with Dennis holding an eight second advantage over Dumoulin.

However, disaster struck with Dennis forced into a bike change after snapping a handlebar.

Despite team officials swiftly providing Dennis with a new ride, the loss of momentum resulted in a considerable time loss for Dennis and he dropped to fourth overall after the 44km mark, 52 seconds in arrears of Cancellara.

On the new bike, Dennis powered home to stop the clock in 1:10.24 - the second fastest of the day to that point.

However it wasn’t quite enough, with Cancellara, Dumoulin and Froome edging Dennis off the podium and into fifth as they completed their run on the course.

“Physically I felt really good, maybe I went out a little bit hard, but you have to throw it all out there and see how it goes,” said Dennis.

“If I didn’t crack in the last third or the last quarter or without the mechanical, I would have been cheering and saying it was a perfect day.

“Gold was definitely the number one goal, I wasn’t thinking of second or third at all.

“But once I got the mechanical, it was all about a medal. I was just thinking medal, medal, medal.

“Podium is still very respectable and I would have been very proud of that.”

Today’s incident came as Dennis was adjusting his body position, with the handlebar extension snapping under the force applied by Dennis as he drove towards an Olympic podium.

“I heard a little crack, it didn’t sound great,” explained Dennis, who refused to lay any blame for the mishap.

“A lot of factors are involved, when you’re pulling that hard on the handlebars trying to get everything out of it, a few bumps it is the perfect combination and it just cracked it.

“It just snapped and I thought I guess I have to change bikes.

“I initially I thought ‘can I finish with this bike’, can I just hold it, and get through up this climb and maybe change at the top. And I realised no, I am not going to be able to do it.”

Dennis also suffered a similar fate at the 2015 UCI Road World Championships when a mid-race puncture while in medal contention saw him finish sixth overall.

This was following a superb 2015 season which saw him become just the seventh Australian to wear the yellow jersey at a Tour de France after posting a Tour record in the individual time trial.

“You have to take the good with the bad and I think maybe every now and then I have a bad run with a few little things,” he said.

“Today is still not a bad day, but luck will turn around on my side sooner or later.”

In another great show of sportsmanship from Dennis, he praised the retiring Cancellara on his performance.

“Hats off, he is an impressive rider,” Dennis remarked.

“He is a real champion, you can’t take this away from him. He rode exceptionally, was perfectly paced today.”

Australia now boasts four top-six finishes in the event at the last four Games, including Michael Rogers’ bronze. 

Amy McCann

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