By Julien Pretot
BAGNERES-DE-BIGORRE, France (Reuters) – Rohan Dennis went AWOL for over an hour after abandoning the Tour de France and his Bahrain Merida team management had no explanation about the Australian’s withdrawal on Thursday.
Time trial world champion Dennis, one of the favourites for Friday’s individual effort against the clock, pulled out 80km from the finish of the 12th stage, organisers said.
The Australian’s team, Bahrain Merida, were unable to locate him for over an hour and he was eventually spotted with his bike parked against the team bus near the finish line.
According to French TV, Dennis was seen arguing with his team car before climbing off his bike but sports director Gorazd Stangelj told reporters he ‘knew nothing about it’.
“We are also confused. I’m disappointed about what happened. We actually expected a big effort from him tomorrow,” Stangelj added.
“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.”
Asked whether Dennis was hard to work with, Slovenian Stangelj said: “I didn’t have any problem with him this season. He is a special guy, let’s say all the champions are, he is really 100% when he wants something and it’s difficult to make everyone 100% happy at the same moment.
“Now is the time to clear things up, to make decisions for the future,” he added, however stressing it was too soon to tell whether there would be ‘consequences’ for Dennis.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Toby Chopra/Toby Davis/Pritha Sarkar)