Dennis couldn’t match the accelerations of protagonists on the climb but didn’t stop trying, pacing behind team-mates Brent Bookwalter and Damiano Caruso until the end in an attempt to limit losses.
The national time trial champion slipped from first to ninth at the end of the 199km stage, one minute and 29 seconds in arrears of a rival 10 years his senior, but still took confidence from the committed performance.
“I would have been happier if it was a better result but the whole mental battle of keep going and don’t stop when you’ve been dropped, is what we’re working on at the moment and more important,” he said.
Dennis considered the outing as good practice against key rivals he is set to battle against at the Giro d’Italia in May as a BMC team leader.
The 27-year-old couldn’t match the likes of Valverde or Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) yesterday but was around the mark of others including defending Giro champion Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb), who also lost contact before a mechanical further compounded his woes.
“It’s good to know I’m not completely behind the eight ball. I am within the range I need to be in February. I said before this race would be a good test to see what I need to work on and where I need to go from here until May. We’ve got a few things to work on,” Dennis said.
The former Hour Record holder identified climbing as one of those things, happy with his time trialling after a stage four win here, and performances over the Australian summer.
“I probably I need to lose some weight off my arse and somehow keep that power as well,” he said with a laugh.
“I look skinny but the scales don’t say I am. I am not 100 per cent sure what my optimum weight is but I know when I’m going well normally I’m about 70kg. That’s only been for a one-week tour, not a three-week.
“Like always, it’s about trying to get the weight down and keep the power.”
A few estimated kilograms aside, Dennis finished the five-day race, a late but successful addition to his program, proud as he continues to work towards that big picture Grand Tour in May.
“I did everything I possibly could and the team was excellent, they protected me in the crosswinds, I couldn’t be happier with that they did for me,” he said.