Rohan Dennis reflects on time trial, weighs Tour de France, gold medals

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For Rohan Dennis, the world’s best time trial cyclist, the last year included the most difficult two months of his life, the best moment of his career and a move to the world’s dominant team. Then came the coronavirus pandemic, postponing his Olympic plan by a year.

Dennis discussed all of it with NBC Sports cycling host Paul Burmeister for a watchback of his 2019 World time trial title, airing on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA on June 24 at 8 p.m. ET.

Olympic Channel’s World Championships Week features the 2019 World Road Cycling Championships beginning Monday. Dennis and Americans Chloe Dygert and Lawson Craddock join the special edition broadcasts to offer insights.

In the time trial, the Australian Dennis repeated as world champ in his first race since quitting the Tour de France the day before that Grand Tour’s time trial without explanation. He later cited a situation with his then-team, Bahrain-Merida, that affected his home life.

“It was probably the toughest eight, 10 weeks of my life,” Dennis said of the time between leaving the Tour on July 18 and leading up to the Sept. 25 time trial at worlds in Great Britain. “There was a lot of mental sort of battles within my own head each day thinking about obviously the Tour de France departure and everything.”

Dennis said he bounced between training a mile high in Andorra and at sea level in Girona, Spain.

“To keep things a little bit fresh because I was pulled out of all my races,” said Dennis, whose psychologist lived with him during that time. “I knew if I stayed in one place, it was going to play mind games with myself the whole time.”

Dennis’ training for worlds went so well that he believed a podium was guaranteed. Dennis dominated, distancing 19-year-old Belgian Remco Evenepoel by 68 seconds on a 33-mile course.

“It’s been a lot tougher than what it looked out there,” Dennis said that day, when he was surprised to be greeted by wife Melissa and baby son Oliver in the finish area. “It was absolutely perfect today.”

Now, Dennis calls it the best moment of a career that included time trial wins at all three Grand Tours, holding the hour record for two months in 2015 and a 2012 Olympic team pursuit silver medal and a pair of world titles in that discipline on the track.

Later last autumn, Dennis signed with Team Ineos, joining an already star studded roster that includes the last three Tour de France winners — Chris FroomeGeraint Thomas and Egan Bernal. He’s confident the team will have no leadership problems for the rescheduled Tour de France that starts Aug. 29.

“They’ve had this same situation more than once before,” Dennis said, citing Bradley Wiggins and Froome racing together in 2012, Thomas and Froome in 2018 and Bernal and Thomas in 2019. “The leadership works itself out. … The team always puts that goal first, so they really stamp out anything that can destroy the team winning. It’s not an individual who wins, even though it technically is. The goal is that Team Ineos has a rider on the top step of that podium in Paris. It doesn’t actually matter who it is.”

That rider will not be Dennis, whose focus is on the world championships time trial in Switzerland that falls on the same date as the last day of the Tour (Sept. 20). Dennis is “90 to 95 percent sure” he will not start the Tour de France this year. Next year’s Tour de France runs into the start of the Tokyo Olympics, so Dennis admits he could miss that Grand Tour, too.

“[A Tour de France] is something I want to do with the team,” said Dennis, who hopes to become the first Australian man to win an Olympic road cycling title. “It also is not a given that you’re in the team if you put your hand up for it on this team. It’s probably the hardest team to get into.”

MORE: USA Cycling names Olympic team finalists

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World Alpine Skiing Championships on for 2021 after request to delay rejected

Alpine Skiing World Championships
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GENEVA (AP) — A request by the organizers of next year’s skiing world championships in Italy to postpone the event by one year was rejected Thursday by the International Ski Federation.

FIS ruled that the event will go ahead from Feb. 9-21, 2021, in Cortina d’Ampezzo — the highlight of an Alpine season that faces challenges to find safe protocols for international travel and attending races in Europe, North America and China.

The Veneto region of northern Italy was hit hard by the coronavirus and the season-ending World Cup races in Cortina in mid-March were canceled. That week-long event was to be a test for the 2021 worlds.

“The last month of efforts to come to this solution demonstrates the strong collaborative spirit of the ski family and stakeholders.” FIS president Gian-Franco Kasper said.

Organizers in Italy have said they expect losses of about 30 million euros ($34 million) if the worlds are also canceled. They asked for a postponement to March 2022, which would be only weeks after the Beijing Olympics.

“But we will be ready in any case and we will show that these world championships can change the history of a region despite the current difficulties,” Alessandro Benetton, president of the Cortina organizing committee, said in a statement.

Italian racer Sofia Goggia, the 2018 Olympic downhill champion, said she was “happy for Cortina because it will host the first major international event after the coronavirus epidemic.”

Cortina, which hosted the 1956 Olympics, will co-host the 2026 Winter Games with Milan and use the worlds as a showcase for the resort.

The women’s World Cup downhill on the Olympia delle Tofane course each January is one of the most scenic in the sport with a signature jump between tall outcrops of jagged rock.

The Dolomites venue was awarded the 2021 worlds by FIS after missing out as a candidate four straight times from 2013-19.

MORE: Anna Veith retires, leaves Austrian Alpine skiing in unfamiliar territory

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Russia track and field athlete clearance frozen due to unpaid fine

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MONACO (AP) — The program allowing Russian track athletes to compete internationally will be frozen because the country’s federation failed to pay a fine on time, World Athletics said Thursday.

The Russian track federation, known as RusAF, owes a $5 million fine and another $1.31 million in costs for various doping-related work and legal wrangles. World Athletics said RusAF missed Wednesday’s deadline to pay.

World Athletics said it would freeze the work of the Doping Review Board, which vets Russian athletes who want the “authorized neutral athlete” status that allows them to compete internationally, and its taskforce monitoring RusAF’s anti-doping reforms.

World Athletics said both bodies will be “put on hold” until its council meets to discuss the situation at the end of July.

“RusAF is letting its athletes down badly,” World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said in a statement. “We have done as much as we can to expedite our ANA process and support RusAF with its reinstatement plan, but seemingly to no avail.”

RusAF president Yevgeny Yurchenko earlier told the Tass state news agency that his federation’s finances were damaged by the coronavirus pandemic and that it had asked for more time to pay.

World Athletics’ statement didn’t directly address that issue, but said Russia hadn’t indicated when it would pay.

Russia was fined $10 million by World Athletics in March, with $5 million suspended for two years, after the federation admitted to breaking anti-doping rules and obstructing an investigation.

The Athletics Integrity Unit said fake documents were used under the previous management to give an athlete an alibi for missing a doping test.

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