UTRECHT • Australia's Rohan Dennis will wear the first yellow jersey of the 2015 Tour de France after winning the opening stage time-trial in 14min 56sec in Utrecht yesterday.
In the midst of a heatwave, the BMC Racing Team rider was the only one to complete the 13.8km course in under 15 minutes and beat three-time world time-trial champion Tony Martin into second. Four-time world champion Fabian Cancellara came in third.
Said Martin: "I'm very, very disappointed. I couldn't handle the heat, especially in the second half where I felt weaker."
However, there was controversy even before the start of the Tour. Defending champion Vincenzo Nibali's Dutch team-mate Lars Boom started the race despite returning a low level of cortisol in an unofficial test conducted by the Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC) earlier this week.
Under MPCC rules, which are not binding, Boom's team, Astana, are obliged to stand him down for a period of eight days but after failing in their request to the International Cycling Union (UCI) to bring in a replacement, the Kazakh team decided to let the 29-year-old start.
"The MPCC oblige a rider to be replaced if his cortisol level is too low. We wanted to change riders but unfortunately the UCI said no," said Astana manager Alexandre Vinokourov. "(Alessandro) Vanotti came this morning to replace Boom if need be. But we can't change riders after the manager's meeting on Friday morning."
MPCC rules state that the rider must be rested for his own health. However, the UCI and the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) do not consider a low cortisol reading to be signs of a doping violation.
A low cortisol level can be produced by the use of glucocorticosteroids, an anti-inflammatory drug that can allow riders to break through the pain barrier.
However, it can also be caused by fatigue, while the use of glucocorticosteroids can produce fatigue and increase the risk of injury.
"According to the medical team there is no danger to the rider's health so he can start the race with us," added Vinokourov, who once served a two-year doping ban himself as a rider. "It's clear and honest, we'll start the race with nine riders. I can't start the race with eight."
Boom won last year's fifth stage on the cobbles and will be an important team-mate for Nibali over the first week of this year's edition, including Tuesday's very similar cobbled fourth stage.
TOUR DE FRANCE
Stage 2: StarHub Ch212, 7.15pm