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by Shane Stokes
April 26, 2016
Photography by Gian Mattia D'Alberto / lapresse
Three time world time trial champion, Tour de France and Giro d’Italia stage winner Michael Rogers has announced that he is quitting the sport of cycling effective immediately, saying that heart issues picked up last December have prompted him to take a difficult decision.
The Tinkoff rider, who was due to ride his final season this year and had hoped to go to Rio plus compete in the Tour de France, said that he didn’t want to take the risk of pressing onwards.
“Recent cardiac examinations have identified occurrences of heart arrhythmia which have never been detected beforehand,” he said in a personal release issued over social media. “This latest diagnosis, added to the congenital heart condition I was diagnosed with in 2001, means that my competitive career must end. My last race being the Dubai Tour in February.”
Rogers’ heart issue was announced by his team in December, with the squad stating that he would miss his planned participation in the Australian national championships and the Santos Tour Down Under.
“Michael was diagnosed with a congenital bicuspid aortic valve in 2001,” stated Doctor Piet De Moor, the head of Tinkoff-Saxo’s medical team, at the time.
“The aortic valve plays a crucial role in cardiac output by preventing blood from re-entering the left ventricle from the main artery. Due to the Michael’s bicuspid formation, the valve is prevented from sealing perfectly, causing a small amount of blood to return back into the left ventricle.
“Michael’s condition has been well documented throughout his career and has been under constant observation by several sports cardiologists.”
In January Rogers said that he would ride the Dubai Tour, saying that he had several ‘meticulous heart examinations throughout December and January’ and, as a result, had been given a green light to get back into action.
However that return proved short-lived, with Rogers not starting the third stage. He explained why via Twitter.
“No start for me this morning at Dubai Tour. My heart data from stage 2 shows Im not yet ready to compete at such a high level. #stepbystep,” he said at the time.
In Monday’s announcement of his retirement, Rogers said he was grateful that his heart condition had been stable until recently and that he had been thus able to reach the top of the sport.
“Whilst I’m disappointed to miss my 13th Tour de France and a chance to compete at my fifth Olympic Games, I’m not prepared to put my health in jeopardy. The opportunity of being a professional cyclist is that after retirement the challenge of a whole new career beckons. And even more importantly, I married the woman of my dreams 11 years ago, and together we are raising three particularly animated daughters.”
Rogers turned professional with Mapei in 2001 and, over the course of a 16 year career, raced with the QuickStep – Davitamon, T-Mobile, Sky and Tinkoff Saxo teams. He took stages in the 2014 Giro d’Italia and Tour de France, won the world time trial championships in 2003, 2004 and 2005 and was also Australian time trial champion in 2009.
Stage race successes include the Tour Down Under, the Tour of Belgium, the Deutschland Tour, the Route du Sud, the Vuelta a Andalucia, the Tour of California and Bayern-Rundfahrt.
Rogers’ full announcement follows below.
It’s been a fun ride
My first recollection of professional cycling was in 1986, when I was seven years old. My family was new to cycling. At the time cycling in Australia was not a mainstream sport and the only way to follow the professional peloton was via magazine subscription. Luckily my elder brothers and I were the beneficiaries of VHS recordings of the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix and the complete 21 stages of the Tour de France, posted
to us by my mother’s relatives in the Netherlands.
I don’t know how many hours I spent during my childhood years engrossed in what was happening on those tapes. During my early teens my mind was solely occupied with professional cycling, so much so that my default response to the friendly request, “Let’s go hang out at the shopping mall after school” offers was plain and simply: “No”. My post-school time had already been mapped out: rush home, have a quick snack, turn on the TV and study the nuances of yet another pro race. Team names such as PDM, Panasonic, RMO – just to name a few – were the subject of long discussion during family meals. I felt like I was put on earth to become a professional cyclist. It was my dream.
Sound like an interesting dream? It became reality. I got the job.
My professional cycling career spanned 16 years. I was the first person in cycling history to win three consecutive professional world time trial championships.
I won stages at the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia.
I represented Australia at four Olympic Games.
I worked on and off the bike with exceptionally smart and talented people, created lasting friendships, smiled and laughed lots, made a bunch of mistakes, cried myself to sleep a few times, travelled the world and learned to speak foreign languages. Did I mention that I had the time of my life? All of this thanks to one dream – to become a professional cyclist.
All great dreams eventually come to an end, and today it’s time to conclude mine by announcing my retirement from racing.
Recent cardiac examinations have identified occurrences of heart arrhythmia which have never been detected beforehand. This latest diagnosis, added to the congenital heart condition I was diagnosed with in 2001, means that my competitive career must end. My last race being the Dubai Tour in February.
In hindsight I’m grateful my original cardiac condition, a malformation of the aortic valve, remained stable until recently, allowing me to compete from my humble beginnings in the Australian outback town of Griffith, all the way to top of the professional ranks.
Whilst I’m disappointed to miss my 13th Tour de France and a chance to compete at my fifth Olympic Games, I’m not prepared to put my health in jeopardy. The opportunity of being a professional cyclist is that after retirement the challenge of a whole new career beckons. And even more importantly, I married the woman of my dreams 11 years ago, and together we are raising three particularly animated daughters.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all my former team-mates, personnel and team managers from the respective teams I raced with. The endless amounts of fun we had together will always be at the forefront of my mind. Many of you have had, and continue to have, a big influence on my life. A further mention goes to my worldwide fan base. Your support during the good times and the bad is greatly appreciated.
I’ll particularly miss the riders, personnel and management of Team Tinkoff. Owner Oleg Tinkov is by no means your typical cycling stereotype. He is a one-of-a-kind supporter of our sport and I hope he reconsiders his decision to leave cycling at the end of the year.
Lastly but not least, my biggest expression of gratitude belongs to my personal team – my wife Alessia, our three children, Sofia, Matilde and Emily, my parents Sonja and Ian and brothers Peter and Deane.
Since leaving home at the age of 16, everything except cycling became second priority. Subsequently I missed almost every family occasion – happy and sad. While on the subject of family, I’m happy to see the youngest generation of the Rogers family starting their own journeys within the cycling world. I hope their childhood dreams become reality, like mine did.