Rohan Dennis says it would be ‘greatest’ to hold yellow jersey for Australia a little longer

Tour de France Stage 1 winner Rohan Dennis is just the seventh Australian to don the yellow jersey, and he's hoping he can keep hold of it for at least a couple days.

Australia's Rohan Dennis puts his overall leader yellow jersey on after winning the first stage of the Tour de France on Saturday. Jeff Pachoud / AFP / July 4, 2015
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Rohan Dennis vowed to keep hold of the yellow jersey for as long as possible after winning the Tour de France’s opening stage.

The 25-year-old Australian upset two former world timetrial champions in Tony Martin and Fabian Cancellara to take victory in the 13.8km race against the clock in Utrecht on Saturday.

Sunday’s pan flat 166km second stage from Utrecht to Zeland was expected to end in a bunch sprint before Monday’s third stage will see some potentially significant time gaps on the Mur de Huy as the 157km run ends with a brutally steep, if short, climb.

Unless strong crosswinds create splits in the peloton on Sunday, that stage should see everyone come home together.

It means the Mur de Huy will be Dennis’s first challenge to keep the yellow jersey, although the specialist punchers that might worry him, such as Alejandro Valverde, Michal Kwiatkowski and Dan Martin, are all around a minute or more behind in the standings.

Dennis wants to hold onto the jersey but he knows that it’s not a priority for his BMC team, whose main aim is to help American Tejay Van Garderen’s overall ambitions.

“The team is obviously 100 per cent for Tejay but I don’t want to lose the jersey after one day,” said Dennis.

“It’s always a bit rough losing the jersey after one day. If I can hold it for (another) one, two, three (days) or until the team timetrial (on stage nine) that would be great.”

That would be a tough ask by any stretch of the imagination with the cobbled stage four and another brutal tough uphill finish on stage six with the Mur de Bretagne offering various riders a chance to create time gaps.

Dennis, though, is just happy to have been able to wear the yellow jersey, and become only the seventh Australian to do so.

“A dream come true was the best way to put it, I’m in a very elite group when it comes to Australians who’ve worn the yellow jersey,” he said. “It’s a huge honour.”

The last Australian to do so was Orica GreenEdge’s Simon Gerrans in 2013 while Cadel Evans, a former BMC teammate of Dennis, last held the honour in 2011, when he won the Tour.

Dennis knows he has no chance of keeping the jersey right to the end but the former team pursuit specialist on the track does have big ambitions when it comes to the road.

After Saturday’s stage, his girlfriend, Mel told reporters that he wants to win the Tour one day.

“(Riding) the Tour de France is the first step to experience this pressure or the media and everything around it,” he said.

“It’s much bigger than most races. Mel could slip in that my long-term goal in cycling is to win one of the Grand Tours.

“I’ve still got a long way to go but this is a step in the right direction.”

He may now have to settle into a support role but his team leader had encouraging words for Dennis.

“Couldn’t be more proud of my boy @RohanDennis,” tweeted Van Garderen.

“Filthy mouth, strong legs, short temper, best teammate you could ask for.”

Attention will now turn to the sprinters for Sunday’s stage where the absence of Marcel Kittel, winner of eight sprint stages over the last two years, leaves the field wide open.

Mark Cavendish, a winner of 25 Tour stages since 2008, will fancy his chances but the likes of Peter Sagan, Alexander Kristoff, Johan Degenkolb and France’s Nacer Bouhanni all know they can beat the Briton in a dash to the line.

The main challenge will be to ensure they all stay at the front and avoid being caught in the wrong place if the wind causes havoc.

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