by Marcus Leach
Rohan Dennis has won the first major race of the 2015 cycling season by claiming victory at the increasingly popular Santos Tour Down Under in Australia.
The BMC Racing Team rider managed to hold on to claim overall victory by just two seconds from Team Sky's Richie Porte on the fifth and final stage.
Dennis's teammate, Cadel Evans, who was racing in his final WorldTour race of his career was a further eighteen seconds back in third place to complete an all Australian top three - only the second in the race's 17-year history.
"It is an incredible feeling to win the Tour Down Under," Dennis said. "Doing it with Cadel during his last WorldTour race took a lot of pressure off me. But I was not comfortable at all in this last stage."
Dennis said he had to stay vigilant during the 20-lap, 90-kilometre circuit race through the streets of Adelaide on the final day, but his only brush with danger in the stage came when a pile-up happened behind him with fewer than two laps to go.
"I had to make sure I kept within distance of Richie, especially after that little spill," Dennis said. "It was all about following him and making sure there if there was a split, it was not too hard to jump across and making sure there were no splits in the finish."
Having taken the lead on stage three, thanks to a late attack, Dennis was able to build on his hard work by staying close to Porte on Saturday's finish at Old Willunga Hill.
"For Rohan, this is the beginning of a career," BMC Racing Team President Jim Ochowicz said. "This is his first big win as a pro, and to have it be a WorldTour event says even more. He went against a real seasoned rider, Richie Porte, to fight the fight. That was a great sign for the future.
"We came here for Cadel. He tried, he got third; but Rohan was just better."
Evans, runner-up to Simon Gerrans by one second here a year ago and 2011 Tour de France champion and 2009 world road champion, said he continues to surprise himself in the closing days of a professional road racing career that began in 2001.
"To go out on the podium – not quite at the top, top – I think puts me at third ranked in the world," Evans said. "To bow out of cycling at that level is probably a little bit more than I hoped. Most of all, I have been here as an optimal teammate and to pass on the baton to the next generation of riders and to bring Rohan here in the jersey and the lead."
Photo Credit: BMC Racing