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What was behind Rohan Dennis’s “reluctant” withdrawal from the Tour de France?

Stage 13 time trial favourite pulls out amid suggestions of dissatisfaction with time trial setup

One of the most striking stories from yesterday’s live blog was Rohan Dennis’s disappearance from the Tour de France. For a time, even his team didn’t know where he’d gone.

The Guardian reports that the world time trial champion climbed off at the feed zone, 80km into stage 12. Bahrain-Merida sports director Gorazd Stangelj ran back to speak to him, but he wouldn’t talk.

Then he vanished.

Midway through the stage, the team put out a statement, saying: “Our priority is the welfare of all our riders so will launch an immediate investigation but will not be commenting further until we have established what has happened to Rohan Dennis. Meantime we continue to support our riders who are mid-race.”

- Rohan Dennis's Merida Time Warp TT - The time trial bike you're not going to see at the Tour de France today

After Dennis turned up at the team bus a couple of hours later, a second statement said that he had “reluctantly” made the decision to leave the race.

Dennis was quoted as saying: “Obviously the individual time trial tomorrow had been a big goal for me and the team, but given my current feeling it was the right decision to withdraw earlier today.

“I wish my teammates the very best for the remainder of the race and would like to thank all the Tour de France fans who cheered for me, at home and on the roadside, since Brussels. I will hopefully be back competing in this great race again over the coming seasons.”

Conspicuous by its absence was any kind of explanation as to why he’d quit.

Speaking at the finish, Stangelj said he was “confused” and “disappointed” at Dennis’s decision and emphasised that it was not precipitated by any kind of physical issue.

“We actually expected a big effort from him tomorrow,” he said. “It was his decision today to stop in the feed zone. We tried to speak with him. He said, ‘I don’t want to talk’ and just abandoned the race.

“His condition is not bad. He’s good enough to perform at the Tour de France. For sure it has nothing to do with his condition.”

While stating that he, “didn’t have any problem with him this season,” Stangelj added, perhaps more pertinently: “He is a special guy. Let’s say all the champions are. He is really 100 per cent when he wants something and it’s difficult to make everyone 100 per cent happy at the same moment.”

He also said that he’d deliberately kept Dennis from doing team work ahead of today’s time trial, for which he was the favourite.

So what was the problem?

Well, there have been suggestions that Dennis has been dissatisfied with his time trial bike all season. Here’s a close look at the bike. (As my colleague Dave Arthur points out, he won the time trial win at the Tour de Suisse on it, so it can’t be too shabby.)

Nevertheless, reports from the Tour seem to suggest that some aspect of Dennis’s time trial setup was an issue.

The Australian has previously said that when frustrations mount, he tries to take a deep breath and count to ten, "and if that doesn’t work, I count to 100.”

On this occasion, perhaps he should have aimed for four figures.

"I have been known to have a short fuse," he told CBS in 2015.

“I’m a little bit OCD. I like perfection with everything and when things don’t line up when they should or I think they should, it gets on my nerves a little bit," he said.

“I’ve always liked things in order. So when something really simple hasn’t been done, or something isn’t organised, and I’ve asked for it to be organised ... it’s something that can set me off a bit."

Perhaps being the favourite for today's time trial increased ramped up the tension further.

“Little things crack me a little bit easier,” he said. “And I’m on edge because I’m worried about my own performance and I’m not backing myself, I’m not confident in my own ability to actually perform at the race.”

Alex has written for more cricket publications than the rest of the team combined. Despite the apparent evidence of this picture, he doesn't especially like cake.

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