Dennis (Bahrain-Merida) briefly turned from the soigneurs surrounding him with warmer clothes, to see former BMC teammate turned CCC rival Michael Schär and said thank you.
The Mt Baldy summit was such that at points kindness surpassed tactics and blind ambition in the Tour of California peloton, which was already tired after racing four consecutive stages each in excess of 200km.
“He told me at one stage just to follow him. There was a little bit of a fast section and he was moving up. We’re ex-teammates, good friends and he said, ‘hey, get on’. So, I thanked him for that,” said Dennis.
The Australian moved up four places from 14th to 10th overall at the end of the 127.5km stage, which ended with 8.2km of switchbacks where overnight leader Tejay van Garderen (EF Education First) broke.
“It was just shit to be honest,” Dennis said of the climb. “It was hard from the word go, and then there is a grind that comes up to altitude so you’re struggling to breathe. It was hard but I just rode my pace and suffered.”
The 28-year-old finished the stage in eighth place, 47 seconds in arrears of rookie pro winner and new race leader Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates).
The time trial world champion said he has taken away “good fitness and training” from the race and as he builds toward the Tour de France. Dennis has his own Grand Tour ambitions and has been working specifically on climbing. However, in his first season with Bahrain-Merida this year has committed to aiding Vincenzo Nibali in July.
“I would have liked to have hung on a little bit longer but when I dropped, I held that pace and they didn’t really get too much further ahead of me. I was happy with that,” Dennis said.