Tour de France: Double joy for Rohan Dennis
Australian takes the opening stage after setting a new record for the highest average speed
Utrecht (Netherlands): Australian Rohan Dennis set a new record for the highest average speed in a Tour de France timetrial as he won the opening stage of the 2015 edition on Saturday.
Rohan Dennis competes during the first stage of Tour de France on Saturday. Pics/AFP
The 25-year-old scorched around the 13.8km course in just 14min 56sec despite Utrecht being suffocated by a heatwave. "I've broken a dry spell of wins and what a way to do it," said Dennis.
He was the only rider to break the 15min mark and set a new Tour record of 55.446kph on average for a timetrial, beating the 21-year-old mark set by Britain's Chris Boardman over a course that was just over half the length.
More important for Dennis, though, will be his opportunity to wear the yellow jersey on Sunday's second stage over 166km from Utrecht to Zeeland.
"I left it all out there; I went off harder than what I thought I should have and I came back harder than what I thought I could," said the BMC rider.
Rohan Dennis celebrates wearing the yellow jersey on Saturday
Dennis had said before the Tour began that his whole season had been built around training for this timetrial and that should he win, it would be "the happiest day" of his "life as a cyclist".
And he did so in style, beating three-time world timetrial champion Tony Martin into second by 5sec with four-time world champion Fabian Cancellara third at 6sec.
Nibali races ahead
Amongst the overall contenders, reigning champion Vincenzo Nibali surprised his rivals by putting time into Chris Froome, Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana.
The first marker was set by 2010 Dutch timetrial champion Jos van Emden, the ninth rider to start, who finished in 15min 11sec. But less than half an hour later, that was bettered by Dennis, even though Van Emden's time of 7min 27sec at the 7.1km time check would remain unbeaten all day.
Dennis was only one second behind but finished stronger to beat Van Emden's time by 15sec. He had to wait for two hours before the true challengers to his time started to roll over the line.