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An interview with Michael Rogers, September 30, 2004
One goal: the world's
Just before the world championships time trial, Michael Rogers was upbeat about his chances of adding a second gold medal to the title he won in 2003 but didn't actually receive until the morning of the 2004 race. He spoke to Shane Stokes about the imminent test and his year so far.
"Winning this time trial is the only thing I have been thinking about since the Olympics," Michael Rogers told Cyclingnews a couple of days before rolling out of the start gate in Bardolino and winning a second world time trial championship. "Last year's experience is a big motivation for me. I think it is certainly possible to do it. I just hope that everything goes right for me on the day. I will be certainly getting off my bike saying that I couldn't have gone any harder, whether I end up with first or last place."
Rogers had worked hard in the run up to the race and felt he was in good shape. 'My form is good... I am quite confident,' he said. 'I had a really good build-up. I know the course really well. I have been training on it at least once a week for the past month. I think my training and racing have been right up to standard the last few weeks so I am really looking forward to it.
"I like the tough course here. For me I don't have the strength of the Germans in a flatter time trial. But it is a different story when there is a few climbs in the race."
Since then, Rogers went on to make history by becoming the first rider to win consecutive pro world time trial championships, and only the second rider to win the title twice (Jan Ullrich won in 1999 and 2001). It was the high point of a year that by his own admission has been a bit of a rollercoaster for the 24-year-old from Canberra, Australia.
Cyclingnews: How do you feel the year has gone for you?
Michael Rogers: It has been a bit up and down. I will cut straight to the Tour, my whole year is based around that. The first week didn't go too well for me, I had three crashes and a few punctures and a heap of bad luck. But towards the end I was a lot better - in the Alpe d'Huez time trial I was twelfth. I didn't have the expectations to go and win it but twelfth was pretty good.
Then obviously the Olympic games - they were quite good again, I was quite happy with my ride but to be so close to podium was a little frustrating.
CN: What is your reaction to the situation with Tyler Hamilton?
MR: I have heard about it but now is probably not the right time to comment on it. I will let it run its course and then it is probably more appropriate to comment after that.
CN: Did you feel doing the Tour was the ideal preparation for the Games?
MR: Yeah, I think so. I obviously came out tired, as everyone does, but I wasn't six foot under. In 2003 I was in bits in the last week, but this time I was much better.
CN: How do you recover from something like that, to make sure your form builds as a result?
MR: I took a few days off, then took it easy with the training for a week and then totally concentrated on time trial training for the Games. I only went to the road race to work for Stuart O'Grady and Robbie and the team, but my energy was all going into a time trial.
CN: Is it a bit of a lottery, how you come out of the Tour? You had some guys who were using the Tour to prepare for the Olympics and it worked out quite well for them, whereas others never really got back their form.
MR: Obviously different riders are suited to longer races, so perhaps their recovery after two weeks of racing is still working quite well. Some riders, after two weeks, are on their hands and knees. Obviously you don't want to come out of it so fatigued that it can take you a month to get back to normal.
CN: So how is your form coming into these world championships?
MR: Yeah, it is good; I am quite confident. I had a really good build-up, I know the course really well. I have been training on it at least once a week for the past month. I think my training and racing have been right up to standard the last few weeks so I am really looking forward to it.
CN: You have said that you welcome the tough course here.
MR: Yes, for me I don't have the strength of the Germans in a flatter time trial. But it is a different story with a few climbs in it.
CN: Who do you see as your most likely rivals?
MR: Peschel, Rich - the Germans are always strong, as they showed in the Grand Prix de Nations last Sunday. Gutierrez from Spain is performing well and there are bound to be five or six others who on the day are feeling good and have a good performance as well.
CN: Now Ullrich is out with a stomach problem.
MR: Yeah, I heard.
CN: Was he a big worry for you?
MR: Ullrich is always strong and when he is good, he is super. But I have beat him on more than one occasion. The best rider will win on Wednesday.
CN: Sports psychologists always say that it is best not to worry about other people, just to get your own best ride out on the day. Do you agree with that?
MR: Yeah, I can't control what they do. If they are going faster or slower than me, it is not going to change my performance so there is no point worrying about how they are doing.
CN: You are the 2003 champion now, after what happened to David Millar. Is there part of you who wants to get to the top step of the podium, to get the jersey on the day and to get the applause from the crowd as the winner. Is that of your motivation?
MR: Ah yeah, that is what it is all about. Winning this time trial is the only thing I have been thinking about since the Olympics, getting that number one slot. I think it is certainly possible for me on Wednesday. I just hope that everything goes right for me on the day. I will be certainly getting off my bike saying that I couldn't have gone any harder, whether I end up with first or last place.
CN: Having trained on the course, have you identified key points that will be important on it?
MR: Yes, certainly. I know the course like the back of my hand. I have trained over it, I know all the climbs and have ridden the whole course at full pace. So I know what it is like now.
CN: What will be the situation with the road race?
MR: We will just see at halfway how things are panning out. Obviously Stuart O'Grady is going well and on the right day, Allan Davis is also dangerous. I might have really good legs too, we will just make that call after halfway.
CN: Do you like the road course?
MR: Yeah, I know it from 1999 when I rode it as an amateur. There are some small changes to the circuit, it is a little shorter so there will be an extra two laps. That will make it a harder race, and it is long too.
CN: Who stands out as the guys to watch?
MR: Obviously Bettini - he is very strong. Also Valverde; there are thirty guys who could win, but Bettini is probably a class above everyone else at the moment.
CN: Is that your last race of the year?
MR: I do the Tour of Lombardy and then the Herbiers time trial in France, the day after. I will then go back to Australia and have a rest, then start preparing for next year in the gym and doing basic training.
CN: Will you get much time off the bike?
MR: Yeah, I will probably have a month and then start up again in December. I am not sure how the Pro Tour situation will affect things, after the three major races have declined.
CN: Within the peloton, do you think most people are for or against the Pro Tour?
MR: I don't think anyone knows; everyone is fifty-fifty. There are obviously some really good benefits to it and there are also some negative points to it as well. We could sit here and talk until we are blue in the face about the pros and cons, but I think in general it will be a good thing for cycling. I suppose your equivalent will be the Formula 1 circuit or the Moto GP circuit. It will be the best riders on the track and that is it.
I hope it will clean up a lot of the teams with regards to not paying riders. There is obviously going to be a very high entry fee into it and quite strict financial agreements. I think for professional cycling it is what the sport needs. I hope everyone, riders included, can step up and we can have a better sport as a result.
CN: Did the decision of the Tour organisers come as a big surprise?
MR: Yes it did. I only heard about it today so certainly without the three biggest stage races the Pro Tour will lose quite a lot of credibility. Without the Tour, the biggest race in the world in terms of media coverage, the general public will be scratching their head and saying 'what is going on here?'
CN: Finally, have you started looking at your goals for next year?
MR: I am looking at that now with my team. Obviously the Tour de France will be my main goal and maybe the Vuelta and the World Championships. Every year I am getting stronger…I am a few years away from my physical peak so I am looking forward to some big performances.
CN: Have you set out a long-term goal?
MR: Yeah, to win the Tour before I stop cycling!