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ADELAIDE, Australia (VN) — So why did Rohan Dennis walk out in the middle of the Tour de France last summer? There’s no easy answer.
The Australian star revealed some of the details behind his July controversial exit, suggesting that mounting pressure and internal stresses within Bahrain-Merida hit a boiling point last summer. Dennis said the situation was so bad he said he was turning into someone he didn’t want to become.
“Family reasons,” he said bluntly when asked why he walked out. “Personal family reasons between the person I was becoming due to the situation I was put under or the environment that I was in that was causing me to be let’s just say not a good or a happy person to be around.”
Last summer, Dennis abruptly abandoned the Tour de France in stage 12, the day before a decisive time trial where he would have been a favorite for the stage victory. Dennis was in the first year of his contract with Bahrain-Merida, but things quickly went off the rails.
Dennis, 29, wouldn’t provide specific details of why he walked, but suggested he was on the verge of a divorce from the mounting pressure and growing tension between himself and the team.
“It was snowballing, it was getting worse and in the end I didn’t want to be a statistic of a sportsperson who was potentially going to be divorced,” he said. “Read between the lines.”
The world time trial champion refused to reveals specific details because of what he said is an ongoing contract dispute with Bahrain-Merida that’s still being sorted in arbitration.
Team officials for the new-look Bahrain-McLaren have also largely remained quiet on the explosive split. The team terminated its contract with Dennis last year just before the worlds, and has since moved on by signing such riders as Mikel Landa, Wout Poels and Mark Cavendish.
Dennis spoke with a handful of journalists, including VeloNews, ahead of the Tour Down Under, and provided a few broad strokes of what led to the explosive split.
“I had a pretty frank conversation with my wife before the Tour de Suisse and some of the things she said really did hit home about the type of person I was becoming because of the situations I was in and the way I was handling them,” he said. “That was a big part of why I left the Tour de France.”
In a previous interview, Dennis revealed how had struggled with mental health issues, and has since worked with a sports psychologist to work through some of his issues.
Dennis insisted the “best thing” for him was to leave the Tour when he did, and said he has no regrets about his seemingly brash decision.
“No. Not at all,” when asked if he had regrets. “I think I would have been kicking myself if I did. I honestly believe that if I’d continued and finished the stage, it would have been even worse because it would have looked even more planned, that I was going to exit, just to annoy the team. Whereas me exiting the Tour de France was for the benefit of my family.”
Dennis, racing at the Tour Down Under this week, said he’s quickly settled into his new home at Team Ineos. He praised the team’s sense of welcome for the sometimes-troubled Dennis, who admits he has a quick temper and struggles with some of his personal demons.
“I think a lot of teams are stuck in that old school mentality where we are ‘pawns in a chess game’. There are some teams, and I’m talking about Ineos, where they really do care about your mental state,” he said. “They’ve got a [psychologist] there when needed and when you’re struggling. Some team know that were not just robot, that we are humans.”
Dennis’s comments might not completely clear the air on what happened, and perhaps the peloton will never truly know what led to the high-profile fracture.
Dennis said he’s happy at Ineos, and he’s ready to move on following the tumultuous rupture. The Giro d’Italia, Olympics and world championships, with a time trial focus in all three, will keep him busy in 2020.
“There’s the old saying that ‘Happy riders, ride well.’ If you’re happy in the environment, then you’re always going to push a little harder for yourself, your teammates, the management,” he said.
“I’m happy to be in a good place. It’s a good place to be out of.”