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by Shane Stokes
May 22, 2014
Almost one month after it was announced that he had been cleared to compete again by the UCI, Michael Rogers raced to the first Grand Tour stage victory of his career on stage 11 of the Giro d’Italia.
The Australian rider attacked inside the final twenty kilometres, slipping away on the descent of the Naso di Gatto and managed to hold off a hard-chasing group until the line.
Battling against a dwindling time gap and a hungry peloton, he hit the line ten seconds clear of Simon Geschke (Team Giant-Shimano), Enrico Battaglin (Bardiani-CSF), Wilco Kelderman (Belkin Pro Cycling Team) and the rest of the 39-man chase group.
Race leader Cadel Evans, whose BMC Racing Team appeared content for Rogers to take the stage, finished thirteenth and safeguarded his Maglia Rosa for another day.
The result continues the strong Australian showing in this year’s Giro.
Rogers’ career had been plunged into uncertainty last year when it was announced in December that he had tested positive for Clenbuterol at the Japan Cup. He won that race on October 20th but it later transpired that the banned substance was found in his system; Rogers protested this, saying that the source was food ingested during the UCI’s Tour of Beijing.
The governing body accepted this, saying that there was a ‘significant probability that the presence of clenbuterol may have resulted from the consumption of contaminated meat from China.’ It cleared him to return to competition and he bounced back to take Wednesday’s result.
Rogers was originally best known for his multiple world time trial championship titles and he drew on those same solo attributes today to take his victory. He said that he had made a conscious decision to take his career in a different direction, but acknowledged that those skills stood to him in his solo race to the line.
“I’ve always loved time trials, but I made it to the top of the tree and, to be honest, I wanted to try my hand in three week stage races. I didn’t succeed and, in a sense, I regret letting the time trials go,” he said. “I lost a lot of weight and strength. At my age, in recent years, it’s difficult to get it back. Sometimes I manage it, and in short stage races, I can get results.”
The day was an active one which saw a stream of attacks and, eventually, a fourteen man group which snapped the elastic. Those present included Tinkoff Saxo duo Nicolas Roche and Ivan Rovny, Philip Deignan (Sky), Yonathan Monsalve (Nero Sottoli), Francesco Bongiorno (Bardiani), Perrig Quemeneur (Europcar), Björn Thurau (Europcar), Daniel Moreno (Katusha), Eduard Vorganov (Katusha), Jan Polanc (Lampre Merida), Romain Sicard (Europcar), Moreno Moser (Cannondale), Francis Mourey (FDJ) and Georg Preidler (Giant-Shimano.
The group looked destined to stay clear but the Androni Giocattoli team chased hard and brought it within reach.
Bongiorno wasn’t going to go down easy and jumped hard with approximately 34 kilometres left. He was joined by Roche and Moreno, then Julien Arredondo (Trek) bridged across and jumped clear.
He went across the top just ahead of Preidler but the duo were caught on the descent. Rogers then made his move, riding hard towards the finish and opening a gap of 44 seconds.
Evans’ BMC Racing team spent some time at the front of the peloton behind but did little to eat into his advantage; as a result he had enough in hand to hold on until the finish. He commented on Evans afterwards, saying that he knew him well.
“Being Australians, we grew together as amateurs. Cadel has always been a classy rider. The first part of his career was on a mountain bike and sometimes he came to find us in the Under-23 Australian team. We were happy when he did, because he won races, and we made some money out of it.
“He’s always been mentally strong, with lots of heart. He has a very strong team, they’re riding well, and he has a great directeur sportif in Valerio Piva, who has lots of experience and is very intelligent. I think they use the team very well. They know their strengths, and Cadel’s experience in 3-week races is almost unrivalled.”
Evans holds a 57 second gap over Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team) and one minute ten seconds on Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) at 1 min 10 secs. He consequently has a solid advantage heading into tomorrow’s 41.9 kilometre Barolo time trial and knows he could further bolster his lead.
“Like any other day, I’d like to improve my margin on my rivals,” he said. “Rigobertyo Urán seems good and is improving day by day, and another name who might be able to do a result and is riding well is [Rafal] Majka. He seems a rider we should pay attention to.
“As for Quintana, we haven’t seen him much so far. I don’t know what to expect. I’m concentrating on my own result. We’ll see in tomorrow’s results.”
He said that he is aware of what awaits him in that test. “It has three climbs. The first is a rolling, gentle climb, with six curves on the down hill. The second climbs a little bit harder and takes longer, from what I remember. The last pitch to the finish is quite steep. It’s comparable to the time trial we had in last year’s Giro, with the steep finish.
“With rolling roads, hilly, and a real mix, it seems most adapted to a climber who has some power on the flat as well. On paper it looks like the time trial course should suit my characteristics.”