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Rogers eyeing Tour prologue

Australian Michael Rogers is psyching himself up for a dramatic debut on the Tour de France with plans to go all out and win the first yellow jersey of the race's centenary edition. The 23-year-old who hails from Canberra has hit a rich vein of form on the European cycling calendar over the past few months winning the Tour of Belgium, the Tour of Germany and last week's Route du Sud. As well as his obvious skills as a time trialing force, it was Rogers' crushing time trial win on the penultimate stage of the latter race that propelled him forward as a major favorite for Saturday's 6.5km

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By VeloNews Interactive, Copyright AFP2003

Rogers at the Tour of Germany

Rogers at the Tour of Germany

Photo: AFP (file photo)

Australian Michael Rogers is psyching himself up for a dramatic debut on the Tour de France with plans to go all out and win the first yellow jersey of the race’s centenary edition. The 23-year-old who hails from Canberra has hit a rich vein of form on the European cycling calendar over the past few months winning the Tour of Belgium, the Tour of Germany and last week’s Route du Sud.

As well as his obvious skills as a time trialing force, it was Rogers’ crushing time trial win on the penultimate stage of the latter race that propelled him forward as a major favorite for Saturday’s 6.5km time trial in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.

Now the promising Quick Step rider, whose longest race to date was a 12-day affair in his amateur days, is set to defy a host of co-favorites on the first day of the historic 21-day epic including Tour winners Lance Armstrong, Jan Ullrich and Colombia’s world time trial champion Santiago Botero.

“I’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain,” Rogers, who is making his debut on the Tour, said at a team press conference two days ahead of the start here Thursday.

“Certainly if I have a good day Saturday then I don’t see why I can’t win the yellow jersey.”

I haven’t ridden any of (the mountains of the Tour) but I’m just going to try and follow the big names – there’s no tactics involved…

–Michael Rogers

Rogers’ ambitions for the rest of the Tour are “just to finish and see what my limits are” – a wise approach given the relative toughness of the 3427km clockwise ride which starts in Paris and ends in the capital on July 27.

“I don’t know any of the mountains on the race. I haven’t ridden any of them but I’m just going to try and follow the big names – there’s no tactics involved but I’ve been in pretty good form all season so I’m confident I can ride all the way to the finish.”

Rogers’ achievements this year have not gone unnoticed and he follows a steady line of Europe-based Aussie riders in regularly igniting the continent’s cycling media.

Rogers’ Italian teammate Paolo Bettini, who is generally considered Quick Step’s second in command behind Richard Virenque, handled being ignored throughout most of the press conference well.

Given Rogers’ recent form, said Bettini, it’s only normal that he gets all the attention.

“Michael has been working really well this season and we’re confident in his chances for Saturday. He certainly holds all the aces,” said the 29-year-old Italian who won a stage on the Tour in 2001. As well as Rogers, Australia’s hopes in the race lie with Bradley McGee (fdjeux.com), national champion Stuart O’Grady (Credit Agricole) and Lotto rider Robbie McEwen.

McEwen will be aiming to defend the green jersey (points) he won last year, awarded to the highest-placed daily finisher, after a lengthy battle to the wire with six-time winner Erik Zabel of Germany.

McGee has been trying to improve his climbing skills however the 27-year-old world individual pursuit champion has just as good a chance of upsetting the field over Saturday’s short circuit. Also riding is fdjeux.com’s Baden Cooke and Matthew Wilson and Nick Gates (Lotto).
Copyright AFP2003