Michael Rogers hoping for gold in Varese
Australia’s Michael Rogers is rightly hoping the time trial rivals he will face at the world championships with ‘Tour of Spain legs’ don’t stand in his way of achieving yet another historic feat.
But given the year the former three-time world champion has endured, he knows that a podium place – in the face of stiff competition from American Levi Leipheimer – would go a long way to showing that he is finally getting back to his old self.
Between 2003 and 2005, the 28-year-old from Canberra was unstoppable at the world championships, winning three consecutive rainbow jerseys and making cycling history.
In 2006, however, a new kid arrived on the time trial block in the shape of Fabian Cancellara. In Salzburg, Austria, Rogers finished two minutes behind the Swiss rider.
Last year – Rogers’ ‘annus horribilis’ – the Australian was still recovering from injuries sustained in a major crash at the Tour de France when Cancellara took his second title in Stuttgart. But for a few different reasons, the Australian looks a good bet to realistically aim for a fourth gold on the rolling, 43.7 km circuit that will host the race against the clock on Thursday.
Firstly, Cancellara has decided not to compete, citing fatigue at the end of a season that has seen him crowned Milan-San Remo and Olympic time trial champion, among other accolades.
Secondly, Rogers is riding in the town which he has made home since he arrived in Europe several years ago.
And lastly he is finally finding race form after contracting a debilitating bout of mononucleosis shortly after recovering from his 2007 Tour injuries.
All things considered, a medal would be a bonus. But despite admitting his condition is “quite high” Rogers is aware that despite Cancellara’s decision to stay at home in Berne, he can’t take even that for granted.
For starters, Leipheimer won both time trials at the Tour of Spain (Vuelta), where he finished second overall behind champion and Spanish teammate Alberto Contador.
“Leipheimer comes in with good form from the Vuelta and you can never discount Contador,” said Rogers in Varese Monday. “Plus, as always, at the worlds there are bound to be two or three guys on a super day.”
To his advantage, he hopes, will be his local knowledge of the course.
“I feel I’m getting better and better as the year progresses,” added Rogers, who last month expressed satisfaction with his eighth place finish at the Olympic Games in Beijing.
“I know the course quite well and have had the chance to train over it since Beijing so I am really hoping to go back on the podium because it’s been a couple of years since I’ve been on (it). It is a very achievable goal.”
Instead of racing the Tour of Spain, where potential gold medal rivals Contador and Leipheimer performed well, Rogers opted for the Tour of Missouri where he performed well in the time trial. Even after another health setback – a bout of flu – the Australian says the form is there.
“I’m quite happy with the form. I caught a little flu just after Missouri but that’s kind of passed without too many issues, so overall quite happy,” he said.
© BikeRadar & AFP 2008