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by Shane Stokes
October 14, 2014
Although Alberto Contador crashed out of the Tour de France and was thus unable to fight for what was the team’s biggest season goal, overall victory in the race, Tinkoff Saxo nevertheless had a very strong Grand Tour campaign during 2014.
Mick Rogers clocked up two stage wins in the Giro d’Italia, while Rafal Majka finished sixth overall in the race. The duo also stepped up and delivered after Contador’s retirement from the Tour, with Majka netting two stages plus the mountains classification and Rogers taking the first Tour stage win of his career.
Their team leader returned for the Vuelta a España and took the overall victory plus two stage wins, showing that his recovery from a fractured tibia was complete.
The latter result has prompted the Tinkoff Saxo team to set a higher goal for 2015, with general manager Stefano Feltrin and team owner Oleg Tinkov trying to get Contador and the Grand Tour contenders from other teams to commit to riding all three Grand Tours next season.
Tinkov has offered a one million Euro incentive to encourage riders such as Chris Froome (Sky), Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) to take part.
In this second half of a two part interview with Rogers, the Australian discusses this plan and explains why he feels it could be very important for the sport.
He talks about the necessary change in approach that the GC contenders would need to take but, when pressed, admits that it would pose a very big physiological demand on riders and that being competitive in all three would be a tough target to achieve.
He also talks about team owner Tinkov’s personality, gives an early indication of his goals for 2015 and discusses Jens Voigt’s hour record and whether or not he would be interested in trying to set a new standard.
CyclingTips: Oleg Tinkov is talking about trying to get the top riders to do all three Grand Tours. What are your feelings about that?
Michael Rogers: I think it is encouraging. How I feel about Oleg is he is bringing a different way of thinking into cycling that all of us in the sport are not used to. I think he brings a perspective that most people in the world of cycling probably find quite hard to see.
Some people call him ignorant, some people call him flamboyant, but it is my feeling that cycling needs to really leverage the people who are on the side of the road on the first three or four days of the Tour.
In order to touch the hearts of all those people, I think we need exciting people in cycling. The way Oleg is going about it might be wrong, but it could be right too.
I have been encouraged also by the other teams, who have jumped in on Oleg’s offer. It is creating positive vibes within the sport. I think that is a fantastic thing.
CT: But do you consider that there might be a danger that it might push riders towards doping, to try to be on form for such a long time in the year, to be in shape to contend for all three Grand Tours? Do you see any danger in that?
MR: I believe…I believe there would have to be a race programme, a training programme that would be very specialized. I read that Patrick Lefevere mentioned that the reduction in length of the Giro and the Vuelta could be a solution.
But it is a tough challenge, absolutely. I suppose that’s the reason why Oleg has put that big bounty – if you can call it that – to do it.
Whether it turns out is a big ask [remains to be seen]. I think it is very tough to go in with a plan to do all three. It is very tough.
It’s about planning once you come out of the Giro…obviously the Giro and Tour is very possible, and a lot of riders you see have done that [ridden both – ed]. But [as regards the Vuelta] I think you would really have to take it as it comes after the Tour, and would have to make the decision about the Vuelta based on a range of feelings and conditions.
CT: When Alberto signed for the team initially, Bjarne Riis said that he wanted him to try to become the first-ever rider to win all three in one year. Do you think that is something which is still on his mind?
MR: We will be heading to the team building at the end of the month. As we have done in the past, I guess we will all sit down there and collectively as a group work towards some goals.
Having such an ambitious plan always poses a risk of doing all three Grand Tours at a very ordinary level instead of doing two or one perfectly.
That would be my question as well, actually…
CT: …if it’s possible to be at the same level for each of them?
MR: Yes, that’s a tough ask.
CT: And obviously it is a gamble for any rider who attempts it. Alberto won the Giro a few years ago and was only fifth in the subsequent Tour. Presumably there is a big gamble for anyone who takes that on…
MR: Yeah, and especially if you are racing as Alberto did in the past in San Luis in South America, and then the Classics, and then the Giro, and training camps in between.
CT: If we look ahead to next season, what personal goals do you want to achieve?
MR: I have got a few things going on. I have been thinking about it a bit lately. I haven’t really sat down and done any real planning yet. Obviously with the season still going the team’s management is still kind of heavily involved in that, in Beijing and the last few races.
But I have got some general ideas. I would like to do the Giro/Tour again. I really did enjoy that this year. As a rider I have always performed very well in May. I would definitely like to go back to the Giro, and Alberto is very keen. And we have a job still to complete at the Tour.
But outside those races, everything is quite open. The one thing is I don’t want to be racing too much.
CT: Jens Voigt took the hour record recently and it is expected that the more mainstream TT guys will eventually go on to have a tilt at it. Is trying to beat Voigt’s record something that might interest you?
MR: No, not at this part, no. It doesn’t really interest me at the moment. I have lost a bit of….I actually respect the guys who do it and I found it very interesting, but for me it is not an interesting thing now. I have concentrated a big part of my career on time trialling and I think that had a big effect on my mountain climbing and road racing.
All my thinking at the moment is going into winning stages of races, so I am doing the actual opposite to what a time trialist is doing, and thus a rider potentially able to do the hour record.
But I think it is very exciting. I hope that riders like Tony Martin, Cancellara and Wiggins really get into it. I think it is something that it is something for the general public to understand, how fast can someone ride in a hour. I think that has some potential.
Also see: Mick Rogers interview part I: clenbuterol case, training changes and modified mental approach