In 116 years of racing at the Tour de France, riders have done all sorts of bizarre things, from jumping on trains to fighting with fans at mountain stops. Rarely have they just vanished in the middle of a stage like Rohan Dennis did on Thursday during the first Pyrenean stage. For a couple of hours on an otherwise uneventful day, nobody was able to say where the time trial world champion had gone. His Bahrain-Merida team even sent an alarming message out on social networks, saying all it cared about was "the welfare" of Dennis after Tour organizers announced he had pulled out of the race. The Australian ultimately resurfaced at the finish line in Bagneres-de-Bigorre, where British rider Simon Yates posted his first stage win, reports the AP. Dennis was seen near the team bus after the stage but did not make any comment about his decision.
He was similarly vague in a later statement. "Given my current feeling it was the right decision to withdraw earlier today," he said, per the Guardian. "We are also confused," Bahrain-Merida team director Gorazd Stangelj said. "We tried to speak with him, he said, 'I just don't want to talk,' and abandoned the race." The French TV station broadcasting the race claimed Dennis had an argument with officials. Stangelj said he was not aware of any argument, though at Cycling Tips, Caley Fretz writes "we do know he has genuine problems with explosive, angry responses to relatively innocuous challenges. He's a hothead." Dennis' withdrawal was even more surprising as it came a day before Friday's short time trial in Pau, where he would have been an obvious favorite alongside defending Tour champ Geraint Thomas. (The AP has more here.)