Reigning time-trial world champion Rohan Dennis has officially dropped out of the Tour de France after inexplicably stopping in the middle of Stage 12 on Thursday — a day before he was expected to win the only individual time trial.
The 29-year-old cyclist left the world stunned after vanishing at the base of the Pyrenean Stage.
Bahrain Merida management released a statement via Twitter regarding the welfare of their champion player after Dennis did not show up for hours, but he wasn’t missing as the team believed.
Other riders spotted Dennis near the finish line with his bike parked against the Bahrain Merida team bus, where he refused to talk to reporters.
Gorazd Stangelj, Bahrain-Merida sports director, said that it disappointed him when Dennis quit, with the champion expected to give his best effort on the 13th stage Friday — an individual time trial he won last year at the 91st UCI Road World Championships.
Stangelj told reporters: “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.” Strangelj said Dennis’ health should not be factored into his exit.
Dennis broke his silence in a statement on the Bahrain-Merida team website, dated Thursday.
“I am very disappointed to leave the race at this point. 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.”
The Guardian reported on speculation that Dennis didn’t enjoy taking the backseat to Vincenzo Nibali, one of the premier stage racers on the team.
Dennis has only one more year remaining on his contract, but when reporters asked Stangelj if there were any underlying issues tied to his departure, he insisted there were none.
Simon Yates crossed the finish line Thursday, winning his first Tour de France stage after Dennis’ departure.
Fox News’ Kira Grant contributed to this story.
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