Team Dennis aims for elusive cycling gold

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Rohan Dennis proves the adage that one of the most important decision a person makes is to marry well.

The 31-year-old will start the July 28 road time trial as one of Australian cycling's top medal hopes at the Tokyo Olympics.

It caps a tumultuous five years for Dennis and his wife Melissa, a track cycling world champion and two-time Olympian.

Two years ago, he was at the crossroads.

There were problems within his professional road team and he was struggling with the demands of trying to become a Grand Tour contender.

Melissa eyeballed him and also made it clear their marriage was struggling.

It's still not exactly clear why a few weeks later, Dennis dramatically pulled out of the Tour de France midway through a stage.

But he later revealed Melissa's frank observations played a part.

Two months after, Dennis stunned the sport when he successfully defended his world time trial championship.

Melissa and their baby son Oliver were waiting for him at the finish.

"She is absolutely a rock and a very, very critical part of all his successes," said Neal Henderson, Rohan's coach since 2012.

"She's a super person, she was a super athlete herself. She knows what it is, what it takes.

"Mel has been there through it and she clearly is one of the reasons why Rohan is able to do what he does now."

Rohan and Melissa married in 2018 and they now also have a four-month-old daughter, Madeline.

COVID-10 means his family cannot travel from Spain to watch him ride at his third Olympics.

But what happened to Rohan and Melissa five years ago will also give it extra meaning.

They were already a couple in Rio when their Olympic campaigns ended in disastrous fifth placings.

If one image summed up Australian cycling's luckless Rio Games, it was Melissa Hoskins limping slowly across the velodrome infield with the gait of an arthritic 80-year-old.

She had hurt her hip when the team pursuit squad crashed in training, dashing their medal hopes.

Hoskins gamely rode in the first two rounds of competition, despite her injury.

A couple of days earlier, Rohan had been on his way to a podium finish in the road time trial when a handlebar extension inexplicably snapped.

Hoskins retired from cycling after Rio.

Now Rohan aims to add to the silver medal he won at the London Olympics in the team pursuit.

After his two world titles in the road time trial, Dennis finished fifth last year.

Henderson spent a week with Dennis in Spain this month - the first time they had been in the same place since January last year - and came away impressed.

A couple of key sessions, in particular, showed Henderson that Dennis is ready.

"It was another super-confirmation that, I would say, all the pieces are in place for an excellent performance," Henderson said of a simulation time trial that Dennis rode.

"The focus on that preparation is clearly there. The form he is in right now is at the level that should put him in for being absolutely shooting for that top step."

Dennis is also in a better place, in particular largely cutting himself off from social media.

By his own admission, he can rub people the wrong way.

"There's a level of maturation and growth on Rohan's part - looking at where the value is in social media, what it can add and what it can take away from you," Henderson said.

"He keeps a close circle at this point. Those who know him, know what kind of quality of character he's got."

And no-one knows it better than Melissa.

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