Whether or not Rohan Dennis wins the world time trial championship in Richmond on Wednesday, he says his admittedly short fuse will have helped him across the line.
The 25-year-old Australian has enjoyed a dream season in 2015, with overall victories at the Santos Tour Down Under and the USA Pro Challenge, a time trial stage win at the Tour de France, a stint as the world Hour Record holder, and team time trial wins at the Tour and world championships.
Yet for all that success, Dennis is also known for his temper. It came up at the USA Pro Challenge in August, where Dennis dominated by winning two of seven stages and finishing second on two others. After winning the opening stage, his BMC Racing teammate Taylor Phinney — who took on painting during his yearlong recovery from injury — referred to Dennis as a “temperamental artist type, a creature of inspiration.”
“I have been known to sort of have a short fuse,” Dennis says, “and I think cycling is the way I let that anger out. That’s how I vent.”
When dealing with the media — something he’s done a lot this season — Dennis comes across as thoughtful and courteous, one of the better interviews in the sport. It’s out on the battlefield, Phinney says, that his temper sometimes shows.
“Rohan is super interesting, and I feel like he trusts me well enough to talk to me,” Phinney says. “For sure, he’s got this temper. He’s kind of like the Hulk. He can just blow up and turn green. I find that you see that a lot with creative types, they have these outbursts of emotion — because that’s kind of what a temper tantrum is.”
That Dennis can be angry is not news. His mid-season switch from Garmin-Sharp to BMC Racing in 2014 was unprecedented and was understood to be, in part, due to differences with team management. More recently, his involvement in a dispute during the USA Pro Challenge — Dennis threw something at a Jamis-Hagens Berman rider who attacked during a BMC-led nature break — showed his confrontational side.
“I’ve always liked things in order,” Dennis says. “So when something really simple hasn’t been done, or something isn’t organized, and I’ve asked for it to be organized — which doesn’t happen very often on BMC — it’s something that can set me off a bit. That’s one of the main things. I’m a bit OCD. That’s the nice way of putting it.”
The mid-season switch last year was also based upon a desire to ride under the mentorship of fellow Australian Allan Peiper, who left Garmin at the end of the 2012 season to join BMC, just as Dennis was coming into the Garmin squad.
“He’s an exciting prospect,” Peiper says. “He has the big motor for us in the TTT, he can climb, and he can time trial. There is pedigree there that says there is GC potential.
“He’s also an angry young man. His reputation proceeds him, and that’s good. You need that tenacity as a rider. It’s not kindergarten out there. It’s war when you go to a race, so you need that edge to rise above adversity.”
But Dennis almost let adversity get to him at the 2014 Australian national championships, where, he admits, he almost quit cycling at age 23 after a crash during the time trial; a gust of wind blew him off his bike, ruining his race and leaving him injured.
“I did everything right, I didn’t deviate from my program, either on or off the bike. I never went out, and I was in an altitude tent for eight weeks, 10 to 14 hours a day,” Dennis says. “Everything came crashing down when I went down on the bike. It was almost like all that emotion and all that effort, and then everything in a split second was all over. Obviously that’s not how I feel now, but it was a very emotional time, and I got caught up in the heat of the moment.
“Now I take a deep breath, and count to 10. And if that doesn’t work, I count to 100.”