After a difficult start to the 2014 season,...

Rogers makes it two for Tinkoff

Michael Rogers wins his first Tour stage in 10 Tours de France, and not one moment was lost on him

BAGNÉRES-DE-LUCHON, France (VN) — No one was beating Michael Rogers today. On the descent into Bagnéres-de-Luchon he said as much. No, someone would have to rip this from his fingers. He was close now, so close.

“I knew Tommy Voeckler (Europcar) would be hard to beat. I tried a few times to drop him on the climb, but I couldn’t,” Rogers said at the finish. “I knew I had to outwit them in the final. Voeckler had a teammate behind, and he started playing that game, but I wouldn’t have it. I said, ‘Listen, don’t play with me, you’re not going to beat me today, there’s no way.’ On the descent, I thought, I’ve been in this position too many times to lose, I’m either going to crash or I’m going to win today.”

Rogers rolled the dice and attacked in a corner as the pace lulled. Now or never.

“This year I think I’ve changed mentally, and when it rains, it pours. I’ve changed upstairs. I’m more hungry, and opportunities seem clearer to me. I’m not scared of the outcome,” Rogers said. “I used to be afraid of failure, but once you believe, and you’re not scared of the outcome, things become clearer, and opportunities arise.”

All it took for Rogers to get this was 10 years and some 200 stages at the Tour de France. But it was easy to see as the Australian crossed the line with no one else in the frame, after a shark-toothed Pyrenean stage, that those Tours, those hours, were worth this exact moment. Emotion coursed through him as he pedaled in, a dream long-deferred finally realized for the three-time world time trial champion. He’d held on by nine seconds to beat Voeckler. Rogers rolled into the breakaway at kilometer 28 and never looked back.

It’s a story of redemption for both Rogers and his Tinkoff-Saxo squad. Earlier this season it didn’t seem Rogers would even be here in France or in Tinkoff yellow at all; he tested positive for clenbuterol at the Japan Cup last year, and was temporarily sidelined as the case played out. The UCI released a statement this spring, saying there was a high probability the substance came from eating contaminated meat, and Rogers was able to return to racing. He did so with a bang, winning two stages at the Giro d’Italia — including the fabled Zoncolan. On Tuesday, he added a Tour stage to his palmares.

As for Tinkoff, Rogers’ win is its second of the Tour, both coming after captain Alberto Contador had to abandon with a broken leg. Considering that, it’s been a remarkable Tour for Tinkoff. Rafal Majka now holds the mountains classification, and also won a mountain stage, up to Risoul.

“It was tough for those four or five days after Alberto left. There was no plan B for us. We made a new plan A,” Rogers said. “I realized that you have to be in it to win it … I realized if you try your best, the worst thing that can happen is that you lose. And if you lose, you tried your best.”

Rogers said he sees things clearer now after his time off the bike, and his results bear that out.

“It’s been a lesson in life for me. As I said previously. I just accepted the person who I was. I’d always dreamed of wining a grand tour. I tried for many years,” Rogers said. “All the sudden I realized, stop trying to live someone else’s life … Objectives are sometimes, how can you describe them? Very hard to understand. And sometimes you need a lesson in life to see the real silver lining.”

In this case, the silver lining is being here at all, in taking his own chances after Contador exited — and descending like he stole something off Port de Balès.

“I was desperate for that stage. I understood the opportunity I had in front of me,” Rogers said. “There’s no gifts when you win a stage. It’s because on that day you were the best.”