Dennis sets speed mark in time trial

The Washington Post Sunday - - GAMBLING - BY JEROME PUGMIRE

utrecht, nether­lands — Rohan Dennis won the first stage of the Tour de France in record speed in the in­di­vid­ual time trial Satur­day, while de­fend­ing Tour cham­pion Vin­cenzo Nibali gained some pre­cious time on his main ri­vals.

Dennis pow­ered along the 8.6-mile flat and windy ur­ban cir­cuit through cy­cling-mad Utrecht in 14 min­utes 56 sec­onds.

“I didn’t ex­pect to go that fast,” the Aus­tralian said. “I was just think­ing ‘16 min­utes, 16 min­utes’ from what I did in train­ing, and in the end I got a bonus.”

His av­er­age speed of 34.4 mph beat the record by Bri­tish rider Chris Board­man on the 1994 Tour pro­logue, al­beit over a dis­tance half as long.

“There’s still emo­tions go­ing on,” said Dennis, who pre­vi­ously held the world hour record when he cov­ered a dis­tance of 52.49 kilo­me­ters in Fe­bru­ary. “The team has done a lot of hard work, and it’s paid off. Re­cons, spe­cific train­ings, it’s all come to­gether.”

His per­for­mance in swel­ter­ing heat that hit 97 de­grees was even more im­pres­sive given that he beat two time trial world cham­pi­ons.

“I think be­ing Aus­tralian and grow­ing up in this heat may have been a bit of an ad­van­tage for sure,” he said. “My spe­cific train­ing be­tween 2 to 5 p.m. gets you used to that. I have been train­ing in 40 (104 Faren­heit) de­grees to get adapted to those con­di­tions, and that was the plan of the team . . . not to come in blind.”

Three-time world champ Tony Martin trailed five sec­onds be­hind in sec­ond place, and four-time world champ Fabian Can­cel­lara was six sec­onds back in third.

“I wanted to win. Any other re­sult is a bad one,” Martin said. “I feel that I couldn’t han­dle the heat, es­pe­cially in the sec­ond half where I felt weaker.”

Nibali, who tried to counter the sear­ing heat by warm­ing up with ice cubes strapped to his back, fin­ished 43 sec­onds be­hind Dennis in 22nd place.

“I felt good, and I’m sat­is­fied I gained time on the other top fa­vorites,” Nibali said.

The Nether­lands’s fourth­largest city has 320,000 in­hab­i­tants, and most seemed to be lin­ing the course route, squeez­ing next to each other be­hind rail­ings or lean­ing out of win­dows as they roared on each rider.

The race stays in the Nether­lands for Sun­day’s sec­ond stage, which starts from Utrecht and ends 103 miles later at the heart of the Zee­land Delta.

Cy­cling along the Dutch coast­line prom­ises to be tricky for riders, with heavy gusts and sprays.

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