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Recently crowned world time trial champion Rohan Dennis won’t be racing in a Bahrain-Merida jersey next season.
The team announced Sunday it terminated a two-year contract set to run through next season with the Australian star on September 13. Dennis joined the WorldTour team this season following the closure of BMC Racing, but abruptly pulled out of the Tour de France a day ahead of a key time trial stage.
Bahrain-Merida officials said it would not comment publicly on the dispute, but confirmed that Dennis has challenged the termination to the UCI’s arbitration board.
“This termination has not previously been made public to allow Mr Dennis an undisturbed preparation for the UCI 2019 Road World Championships,” a team press release stated.
Speculation was growing that there might be a split between Bahrain-Merida and the fiery Australian when Dennis was spotted racing on an unbranded jet-black BMC Time Machine bicycle instead of his team-issued Merida frame en route to winning the world time trial title Wednesday.
Dennis abruptly quit the Tour de France this summer in an alleged dispute over equipment and a choice of clothing ahead of the Tour’s time trial stage that Dennis was heavily favored to win.
Dennis rode at the front of the elite men’s road race on a bright red BMC bike before a planned early exit. Unlike the blacked-out bike he rode to victory at the time trial, the Australian made no attempt to hide the logos on his road bike.
He did say this Wednesday after winning gold against the clock: “Cycling Australia think the BMC was the best bike for me and my body shape at this period in time. I can’t speak for Bahrain-Merida or how they are feeling but for my result. I’m happy. It’s the biggest win of my career, to be honest with you.”
Bahrain-Merida, meanwhile, is undergoing some important behind-the-scenes changes for 2020. Longtime British coach and trainer Rod Ellingworth, who helped found Team Sky and worked closely with the successful Team GB track team, takes over as general manager.
Officials representing Dennis released this statement Sunday:
“After receiving a letter from Bahrain Merida of their intention to terminate Mr Dennis, we notified the UCI Arbitration Panel of our intention to bring a case against the team for:
1. Wrongful termination of the Self-Employment Agreement;
2. Breach of contract; and
3. Actually causing, and with malicious intent to cause, damage to the health and reputation of Mr Dennis.
Mr Dennis will not be making any other comments until the case reaches its conclusion.”