BMC Racing Team’s Dennis clinches Stage 4 across Al Maryah Island after time-trial world champion Tom Dumoulin suffers mechanical trouble on Saturday
Victorious Rohan Dennis cautiously optimistic ahead of Abu Dhabi Tour final stage in Al Ain
Rohan Dennis has said he expects a stiff challenge from competitors as he bids to win the Abu Dhabi Tour in the fifth and final stage on Sunday.
BMC Racing Team’s Dennis clinched Stage 4 of the race - the 12.6-kilometre individual time-trial across Al Maryah Island - after time-trial world champion Tom Dumoulin of Sunweb suffered mechanical trouble on Saturday.
Jonathan Castroviejo of Team Sky finished second, 14 seconds behind, while Dennis’s compatriot and teammate Miles Scotson was two seconds further adrift in third place.
Victory gave Dennis, who clocked 14 minutes and 21 seconds, the overall lead in the World Tour event and set up the Australian for the gruelling 199-kilometre final stage, which starts at the Qasr Al Muwaiji fort in Al Ain and ends at Jebel Hafeet.
Dennis, who said he was naturally happy with the win, however conceded his heart went out to Dutchman Dumoulin.
“It's never good to win over someone like Dumoulin in that way," he said. "It's a shame that it actually happened, but I think he is still pretty dangerous.”
Dennis said Alejandro Valverde of SPA Movistar Team was also “looking good” to challenge him for the title. “I saw him going strong in the wind on Stage 2. He should be good on the hills tomorrow, too, but I'll do my best to win the Abu Dhabi Tour.
“Jabel Hafeet is a pretty good climb for me. It’s a hard climb but it suits a TT [time-trial] rider. We’ll put everything into keeping this Red Jersey [worn by the leader in the general time category]. It’d be great for me to win the overall classification of a stage race outside of Australia or America.
“Obviously, Dumoulin is right up there, but Valverde is probably the most threatening rider. He was strong on the flat, he’ll be dangerous uphill, too.”
Dennis enjoys a 14-second lead over Castroviejo going into the final stage of a race he was originally not scheduled to compete in.
“I wasn’t to race until Tirreno-Adriatico [in Italy] after the Australian campaign, but arrived in Abu Dhabi after a change of plan,” the 27-year-old rider said.
Meanwhile, the UAE Team Emirates are hoping for a strong finish with Diego Ulissi, Rui Costa and Fabio Aru, all set to mount their challenges on the exhausting final stage.
Ulissi finished just three seconds outside of a top-10 finish in the time-trial for a 15th place finish in the GC. Costa and Aru were not far behind, in 17th and 26th, respectively.
“The time-trial course was really technical with several turns, which was not helped by the wind – it really suited the time-trial specialists who have a lot of power,” Ulissi said. “I felt good considering it’s only my second race of the season. We’ll see tomorrow if we can mount a challenge for a stage win.”