Dennis sets speed mark in time trial
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.