Rohan Dennis does not have title ambitions at Paris-Nice but could nonetheless claim the first leader’s jersey of the race given Sunday’s 6.7km prologue plays to the South Australian’s strengths.
Sophie Smith

7 Apr 2015 - 5:20 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:35 PM

Dennis left yesterday for the eight-day event, which serves as a Tour de France dress rehearsal with the Tour Down Under champion aiming to support BMC's now No.1 Grand Tour contender, Tejay van Garderen hopefully in both.

SBS will broadcast every stage of Paris-Nice live!

The 24-year-old returned to road racing as a fill-in at a pair of one-day races in France last weekend following his successful Hour Record attempt that Thomas Dekker recently failed to eclipse at altitude in Mexico.

The Race to the Sun commences a month from when Dennis culminated an intensive period of racing for results, setting the 52.491km benchmark, after which he needed a mental break more than anything.

"It physically wasn't that big a deal to be honest. It did hurt, I'm not saying it didn't, but I've come out of races feeling a lot worse," Dennis told Cycling Central from Spain yesterday.

"Physically doing a week-long tour over an hour of threshold, to put it simply, is a lot harder on the body."

Dennis returned to training, with Paris-Nice in mind, some four days after the attempt, questioning his sanity in a tweet published mid-February.

"I did a harder training session than what was actually planned," he explained.

"I felt good that day and just went to what I felt was the right pace. Then I realised half way through what I was actually doing but thought I may as well try and keep doing it, all the way through a five hour ride.

"It was one of those things where I did sort of think, 'what is wrong with me? Why would I do this to my body?' but those are the days that can take you to another level, or show you where your limit actually is.

"I have been training pretty hard but there have been days where I've woken up and, wasn't feeling physically tired, I was just thinking, 'do I really have to ride?' It's not the weather either, it's one of those things where you've built up so much through January and early February that when you do switch off it's sort of a big lull."

Dennis will face stiff competition in the prologue, and concluding 9.6km time trial, with world champion Bradley Wiggins and his in-form Sky team leader Richie Porte amongst those set to start Paris-Nice. Wiggins may race perhaps with the added motivation of this edition being his last before leaving Sky for a self-titled Continental team, fostering Rio Olympic track aspirants, in later spring.

"I'm obviously not at my top form. I think over an hour I'm good!" Dennis continued.

"Time trial wise I have been doing some threshold and my goal is that first prologue, I want to have a good crack at that. From the racing on the weekend just gone I was good until four hours and then I started to really hit a wall. In saying that, the first hour was probably the hardest first hour I've done on a bike in a race so it threw off my feeling and where I might be. If I didn't actually do as much work in the first hour maybe I would have gone further, so it's a little bit unknown to be honest."

Dennis is set to race with van Garderen at Paris-Nice and Pays Basque in the lead-up to the Tour having left Garmin-Sharp for BMC in a rare August transfer last season. Such races may provide an essential foundation in terms of team bonding with BMC general manager Jim Ochowicz tipping van Garderen for a top five Tour finish this year. The American, who raced as BMC's outright Tour leader in 2014, succeeds the recently retired Cadel Evans at the squad, with Dennis amongst potential Grand Tour racers being developed.

"There are guys on the team I haven't had a whole lot to do with being in the same races with pretty well the same eight – nine guys end of last year and pretty well the same guys the start of this year," he said.

"I haven't done a whole lot with (van Garderen). I did the worlds with him last year and after the team time trial (that BMC won) we were actually staying in the same hotel so we spent a bit of time together there, and then training camp in December. We do get along.

"I've spoken to him when I was with Garmin and personality wise I don't think he's the same as me but we probably have the same sort of drive," he continued.

"That's not going to interfere with anything when it comes to our job and who is the leader and who isn't. In that sense I think we'll work well together anyway."

SBS will broadcast every stage of Paris-Nice live!