An interview with Michael Rogers, February 6, 2006
The last few months have been a time of considerable change for Australian Michael Rogers. He got married to his fiancée Alessia, took an unusually long break from cycling, and changed teams from QuickStep to T-Mobile. Now, batteries fully recharged, he tells Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes that he is looking forward to the new season.
Given that Michael Rogers has already taken three world time trial championships and has been racing at the top level for many years, it is easy to forget that the Barham native is still just 26 years old. He's long been seen as one of the most promising young stage race riders and in 2005 went close to winning the Tour of Switzerland, only losing out to Aitor Gonzalez on the final stage. He finished second overall, just 0'22 down.
Digging deep in Switzerland caused, he believes, a drop in form for the Tour de France, but despite a disappointing showing there, he set about regaining form and went on to take that third time trial title in Madrid. As he tells Cyclingnews, he was under a considerable amount of pressure heading to Spain for that September 22 rendezvous with the record books. However, he was able to deal with the stress, riding strongly on the Caso de Campo circuit and pulling off what was a great win.
At T-Mobile's launch, Rogers was presented as one of the three big guns for the stage races this year. Along with Jan Ullrich and Andreas Klöden, he has the ability to win big, time trialing strongly and climbing well. However, as long as Ullrich as designs on winning the Tour, he knows that he will play second fiddle to the 1997 winner. That's fine by him.
Cyclingnews: How have things been so far with the new team?
Michael Rogers: Good...it is only January, it is quite early, but from my experience over the last five to six years, it seems to be a team that has already getting along and is quite united.
CN: Do you speak any German at all?
MR: No, but between Italian and English I should get on fine. Besides, they say the official language of the team is now English. Saying that, I will have to learn little bit of German.
CN: Will you remain based in Italy?
MR: Yes, that is the plan.
CN: I know it is early days, but have you seen any differences between this and your last team?
MR: Well, I suppose it is a little bit better organised in the way that we already know, more or less, what our groups are, in terms of our aims. There is already a group doing specific training for the Classics, there is already a group training for the Tour.
CN: What were the factors in your decision to change teams?
MR: It was a few things. The financial aspect was one, it was a better offer. And also the fact that there is a team specifically for the stage races. That is the direction in which I want to bring my career. There is an opportunity here to ride with a team that is oriented towards that.
CN: With the Tour, Jan Ullrich is going to be the number one guy there this year. Is part of your motivation to learn from him?
MR: Certainly. Jan has been showing well in the Tour now for more than 10 years and he has got a lot of experience. I am sure that I can learn from him. One day, Jan will retire and hopefully I will get to take over the reins.
CN: There is mention of you doing the Giro. When was that decision made?
MR: We made that decision of the end of last year. We thought that it would be super preparation for me for the Tour - we don't know yet whether I will do the whole thing yet, but I can make that decision during the race. But certainly I am not only going for training, there are some stages there for me, especially the time trials and the medium mountain stages. I think the last few mountain stages are hard for a guy like me to win, with my characteristics as a rider...there are some very, very hard stages in the Giro, I think, it is almost too hard!
CN: Is there still talk of Jan doing the Giro?
MR: Yes, I think it is on the cards. I don't think he has made a final decision yet, but I think he will play it by ear and, as he gets closer to the Tour, he will decide. He has been doing it long enough to know what work he should or shouldn't be doing to make sure he hits top form.
CN: You came into some very good form before last year's Tour, nearly winning the Tour of Switzerland. At the time there was some talk that perhaps you had gone little bit too deep and that that affected your performance in the Tour. Will you be holding back in the Giro, then?
MR: Yes, I am not going to be going there fighting hard every day. I will go there aiming for some stages. I think what I need is the big mountain stages, just getting through them is great training session; I think I need a couple of them before the Tour. I mean, there are always stage races such as the Dauphiné, the Tour of Switzerland, but I am quite a good trainer. I can stay at home [after the Giro] and get to a very high level there.
CN: Have you set goals for this season, in terms of races that you personally want to do well in?
MR: Yes, obviously the Giro and the Tour and also the World Championships.
CN: When you mention the Tour, is that with a view to stage wins and time trials?
MR: Yes, that's right. I am not going to the Tour [focusing on the overall] - I think I make that mistake last year, overstretching myself.
CN: You appear to be in good condition. How it your form compared to other years?
MR: I feel a little bit stronger this year. I have probably done little bit less training, but I think I am feeling stronger than I ever have at this time of the year and, looking at my test data, it says that I am in the right condition for now. My first race will be the Tour of California in February, so I have got another month to get myself into a condition that is good enough to be at a good level there. Then I will take the rest of the season as it comes.
CN: Do you know what you're doing after California - is there anything laid out yet?
MR: Yes, I reckon I will be doing the Coppi-Bartali race in Italy. Just some of the smaller stage races. I don't know yet whether I will do the Tour of the Basque Country or not, I will probably also do Liège as well.
CN: You had a very good end of season, taking your third consecutive world time trial championship. Was that a good motivation to go into the off-season with?
MR: Yes, it was. I was obviously a bit disappointed after the Tour, and there was a bit of tension with the team because they weren't real happy. So I went to the World's with a lot of pressure, and obviously the chance to make it three in a row added to that as well. But that made it all the better when I won. I had all the pressure on the world but I handled it. It was fantastic.
CN: What you do after that, to unwind in the off-season?
MR: I didn't finish just then. I did a few more races, then I took it easy. I got married, and had the longest break off the bike that I have had for 10 years...I had about two months completely off, that is a first for me. I usually have three weeks or maybe a month.
I am surprised to reach this level of fitness so soon after that long break, but I think in that time I was able to recuperate a lot of the energy that I had spent during the year.
CN: Were you doing some non-bike stuff in that off-season period?
MR: Yes...I was doing a bit of running, I did some gym work and a bit of mountain biking. It is very encouraging to take a break such as that but to come back and have such good pre-season form. Last year was a really, really big year for me. I totally changed my type of training, I was doing a lot more work, a lot more hours. I just felt mentally that I needed a long break and a fresh start.
The start of the season isn't too vigorous, either. I always enjoy quite a steady beginning to the season. That is what works best for me.
Also see: T-Mobile presentation: T-Mobile 2006 is go