Bagneres-de-Luchon , France – Michael Rogers finally won a Tour de France stage after 10 years of trying and with it came redemption for the Australian.
In his 10th Tour, the wily veteran stole a march on his four escape companions to solo to victory after a monumental 237.5km stage from Carcassonne to Bagneres-de-Luchon on Tuesday.
And his success came just three months after he was absolved of doping by the International Cycling Union (UCI).
“You dream of winning a stage of the Tour de France since you’re a kid. This was my 10th Tour, that makes 205 stages I’ve been without a win,” said the 34-year triple world timetrial champion.
“It’s amazing, I can’t describe the joy I felt in the last 500m when I knew I was going to win.
“I hope I don’t have to wait another 10 years to feel that again.”
Six months ago, Rogers didn’t even know if his career was over.
He had tested positive for the banned stimulant clenbuterol at the Japan Cup in October and was provisionally suspended.
The UCI accepted his plea that he had inadvertently ingested the substance and cleared him of any wrongdoing, although he lost his Japan Cup victory as he had won it with the stimulant in his system.
He was only cleared to race again in April but a month later he won his first ever Grand Tour stage.
He actually managed two stage wins at May’s Giro d’Italia and has now added a victory at the Tour, helped by a time of reflection during his break from the sport.
“I think I’m smarter now, certainly I realised you have to be in it to win it,” he said.
“Previously I was too calculated and scared of the outcome before it arrived.
“I’ve really realised if you try your best then the worst thing that can happen is you lose, but at least you tried your best.
“I’ve also opened the door to more opportunities, I see them much clearer now.”
Yet Rogers admitted that he may never have had this chance had it not been for the terrible crash and injury suffered by his Tinkoff-Saxo team leader Alberto Contador.
The Spaniard left the Tour at the end of the first week with a broken shinbone after hitting the deck hard on a fast descent.
Rogers said he would have still been working for his teammate and hopefully helping him challenge runaway leader Vincenzo Nibali had Contador still been around.
Asked if he’d have won this stage, Rogers said bluntly:
“Probably not. I’d like to think I would have been really tired by now because I’d have ridden so much on the front with the yellow jersey.
“I’m not going to say Alberto would’ve won easily because Nibali’s in the form of his life, but I think it would’ve been an incredible battle.
“Alberto is already thinking about next year’s race.
“I can be grateful but also heartbroken Alberto’s not here because I think it would’ve been something special and we’d have had to fight every day back in the peloton.”
Despite their overall hopes ending when Contador left the race, Tinkoff have managed two stage victories while young Pole Rafal Majka, who won Sunday’s Alpine 15th stage, took the polkadot king of the mountains jersey on Tuesday.
“It was tough for those four or five days after Alberto left but there was no plan B, we made a new plan A,” said Rogers.
“We have great leaders in (owner) Oleg (Tinkov) and (manager) Bjarne (Riise) who empowered us and we took stock and got new objectives.
“If we do win another stage it will be a bonus but Majka’s now in the mountain jersey.
“If we do win another we can be content but we can also be content if we arrive in Paris with two victories.” – Sapa-AFP