Stage winner Dennis a menace to Tour's top guns

Sat Jul 4, 2015 2:22pm EDT
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By Martyn Herman

UTRECHT, Netherlands, (Reuters) - Australian Rohan Dennis proved too hot to handle as the Tour de France began with a record-breaking 13.8-km individual time trial through the sweltering streets of Utrecht on Saturday.

The 38th of the 198 competitors to roll down the start ramp, the BMC Racing Team rider averaged 55.446 kph as he blasted round the cycle-mad city in 14 minutes 56 seconds.

He then had to stew in the hot seat as rider after rider failed to match his searing pace in suffocating temperatures more typical of his native Adelaide.

Dennis completed his white-knuckle ride in the highest average speed for a Tour de France individual time trial since Briton Chris Boardman’s effort over 7-km in Lille in 1994, and it gave him ownership of the coveted yellow jersey for a day at least.

"It was a huge relief and a huge goal finally achieved," said Dennis who was five seconds quicker than second-placed German Tony Martin and six clear of pre-stage favorite Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland.

"So few people have actually won the yellow jersey, it's a huge honor," the Australian told reporters. "It was stressful waiting. I was shaking watching them come in one by one. There were a few close moments for sure.

"When Cancellara didn’t beat me I finally could start to relax a bit."

An estimated 700,000 people turned out to watch as the Dutch welcomed the Grand Depart for the sixth time, and they were not disappointed as the sport's powerhouses lit the blue touchpaper for the battles ahead.   Continued...

BMC Racing rider Rohan Dennis of Australia cycles during the 13.8 km (8.57 miles) individual time-trial first stage of the 102nd Tour de France cycling race in Utrecht, Netherlands, July 4, 2015. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier