• Rohan Dennis led the Giro d'Italia for four stages before finishing 16th overall. (Getty)Source: Getty
Australian Rohan Dennis is following the same career path that took Geraint Thomas and Brad Wiggins to Tour de France titles.
Cycling Central

31 Jul 2018 - 12:41 PM 

Geraint Thomas has what Rohan Dennis wants - the successful transition from a star track cyclist to a grand tour champion.

Thomas's stunning Tour de France triumph is the culmination of a long-term project during which he has switched from Olympic gold medals on the track to road cycling's three-week grand tours.

It is much the same project that Dennis announced when he won the Oppy Medal in late 2015 as Australia's cyclist of the year.

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That year, the Adelaide rider won the opening stage of the Tour de France, with the fastest time trial speed in the event's history.

He also became the seventh Australian to wear the Tour's famous yellow jersey as the overall leader.

But then Dennis was still a time trial specialist and he lost the race lead the following day and the BMC rider finished 101st overall.

Thomas last rode on the track at the London Olympics, where the Welshman was a member of the British squad that beat Australia to win gold in the team pursuit.

Dennis was in the Australian quartet that took silver.

Since London, Thomas has steadily improved as a road cyclist in the powerful Sky team.

His Tour de France win was the first time that Thomas has made the top 10 overall in one of cycling's three grand tours - the Tour, the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a España.

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Dennis showed progress two months ago when he finished 16th at the Giro - easily his best grand tour result.

Switching from pursuiting to grand tours is a tough, multi-year project.

Apart from the training, track riders are heavier than roadies and they have to overhaul their diet to shed weight.

British star Brad Wiggins took the same path - he and Thomas were teammates when Great Britain won the team pursuit at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Four years later, Wiggins became the first British rider to win the Tour de France and four years after that, he was back on the track winning another gold in the team pursuit at the Rio Olympics.

Thomas's first title came at the end of an unusually barren Tour for Australian cycling.

There were high hopes before the race, but the Australian Mitchelton-Scott team decided not to give young sprint ace Caleb Ewan his Tour debut.

The team rode for British grand tour contender Adam Yates and he struggled, finishing more than an hour off the pace.

Podium hope Richie Porte crashed out on stage nine, while last year's green jersey winner Michael Matthews pulled out in the opening week because of illness.

The only success for Australian cycling in this year's Tour was when Porte and Simon Gerrans were members of the BMC squad that won the team time trial on stage three.