Tour de France: Rohan Dennis wins stage one to take race lead
Big four favourites all separated by just 18 seconds in time trial
By Matt Westby
Last Updated: 27/07/15 5:00pm
Australia's Rohan Dennis won stage one's individual time trial to claim the first yellow jersey of this year’s Tour de France as Chris Froome and his fellow favourites for overall victory were all separated by just 18 seconds.
Dennis (BMC Racing) produced the fastest ever average speed in a Tour time trial - 55.446kmh - to stop the clock on a 13.8km course in Utrecht in 14min 56sec, which was five seconds quicker than runner-up Tony Martin (Etixx – Quick-Step) and six seconds ahead of third-placed Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing).
Given that there were no time bonuses on offer on the day, the same three riders are separated by the same margins in the race's first general classification.
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) was the fastest of the four pre-race favourites, 43 seconds down on Dennis but seven seconds quicker than Froome (Team Sky), 15 seconds up on Alberto Contador and 18 seconds better off than Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
Dennis said: "I didn't expect to go that fast. I was targeting around 16 minutes. Everything went perfect. We went with the tactic of going off early - no stress, set a benchmark and make everyone else chase.
"It worked out perfectly. I'm in a little bit of shock. Tour de France, yellow jersey - it's a dream. I have always wished to be in this position and now I am."
After Jos van Emden (LottoNL-Jumbo) had set the first early benchmark in sweltering conditions in Utrecht, Dennis produced a remarkable ride that eclipsed the previous fastest-ever average speed, set at 55.2kmh by Britain’s Chris Boardman in the 1994 Tour prologue.
No one got near the Australian's mark for a couple of hours, but then the other time-trial specialists in the field began rolling down the start ramp in quick succession and the lead came under serious threat.
Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin), roared on by a partisan home crowd, was only one second adrift at the 7.1km intermediate split but faded in the second half, while Martin was two seconds down at the split but also couldn't make up his deficit and later admitted the heat had "cooked" him.
He said: "I wanted to win. Any other result is a bad one. I feel that I couldn't handle the heat, especially in the second half, where I felt weaker."
That left just Cancellara and although the veteran Swiss was only one second down at the split, he too failed to match Dennis' brilliant performance in the second half of the course.
With Cancellara finished, attention turned to the four general classification favourites. Quintana had earlier posted what initially looked like a poor time, 1min 1sec down, but then Contador and Froome could only better him slightly and while Nibali was the sharpest of the quartet, he too could only make marginal gains on the Colombian.
The lesser favourites for overall victory fared better, with Rigoberto Uran (Etixx – Quick-Step), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr) and Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) all beating Nibali by three, two and one second respectively.
Britain’s highest finisher was Steve Cummings (MTN-Qhubeka), who produced a superb ride to take 10th, but Alex Dowsett (Movistar) could only finish 36 seconds down in 13th.
The Tour continues on Sunday with a flat but potentially windy 166km second stage from Utrecht to Neeltje Jans.
Stage one result and general classification
1 Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC Racing, 14:56
2 Tony Martin (Ger) Etixx – Quick-Step, +5secs
3 Fabian Cancellara (Sui) Trek Factory Racing, +6
4 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Giant-Alpecin, +8
5 Jos van Emden (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo, +15
6 Jonathan Castroviejo (Esp) Movistar, +23
7 Matthias Brandle (Sui) IAM Cycling, +23
8 Adriano Malori (Ita) Movistar, +29
9 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo, +30
10 Steve Cummings (GB) MTN-Qhubeka, +32
22 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana, +43
39 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, +50
46 Alberto Contador (Esp) Tinkoff-Saxo, +58
57 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, +1:01