Rohan Dennis ABANDONS race with 80km left on Thursday

Bahrain-Merida's Gorazd Stangelj hands a bottle to Rohan Dennis at the 2019 UAE Tour

Bahrain-Merida's Gorazd Stangelj hands a bottle to Rohan Dennis at the 2019 UAE Tour

It represented a major blow for the Bahrain-Merida team who are now hunting stage wins. "Obviously tomorrow's ITT had been a big goal for me and the team, but given my current feeling it was the right decision to withdraw earlier today", he said.

Amid the initial confusion, Bahrain-Merida sports director Gorazd Stangelj had said he was "confused" and "disappointed" that Dennis, who won the Tour of Switzerland time-trial last month, had quit.

"We tried to talk to him, we stopped the vehicle to discuss a solution".

According to French TV, Dennis was seen arguing with his team auto before climbing off his bike but sports director Gorazd Stangelj told reporters he "knew nothing about it".

"Our priority is the welfare of all our riders", they added.

Stangelj was not aware of any complaint from Denis in regards with his time trial equipment and also dismissed suppositions that Dennis could have been frustrated with his role in the team, to ride conservatively. "He told us he didn't want to talk and got in the vehicle", said Stangelj.

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But when asked whether Dennis was hard to work with, Stangelj said: "I didn't have any problem with him this season".

"We always found a solution when it was needed".

He finally managed to get his rider on the phone after another auto from the team arrived next to him. "It's very surprising because I knew I was the first one on the team".

Dennis was being primed as a Grand Tour contender who could pulverise time-trials and defend himself on the climbs, as he did when coming second on the recent Tour de Suisse.

Later on, reporters at the finish line posted pictures on social media of Dennis" bike and claims by "staff members' of the team that the rider was fine and inside the bus.

Asked after Thursday's stage if there were any other issues that may have led to Dennis's sudden withdrawal, Stangelj said: "Come on, don't put words in my mouth".

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