Michael Rogers forced to retire with heart ailment

Australian ends 16-year career

Tinkoff's Michael Rogers has called an end to his career as a professional cyclist, making the announcement via an open letter on Twitter today.

The 36-year-old suffers from a congenital heart defect, and his condition began to deteriorate last year, forcing him to skip first the Tour Down Under and then abandon the Dubai Tour.

Rogers had a long history at the top of cycling, beginning with the Australian junior time trial championship in 1996 at age 16. The next year he won two junior track world titles, the points race and team pursuit, and followed that up the next year with a Commonwealth Games gold medal in the scratch race.

Rogers was second to José Iván Gutiérrez in the U23 time trial world championship in 1999, and then third behind Evgeni Petrov and Fabian Cancellara in 2000. He was signed as a trainee for Mapei-Quickstep in 2001 and then brought on as a neo-pro.

Rogers spent five full seasons with Patrick Lefevere's QuickStep squad, winning the Tour Down Under overall in 2002 and the Tour of Belgium in 2003 before claiming silver at the World Time Trial Championships that year. 

He followed in 2004 with fourth place in the Olympic Games time trial, but was elevated to bronze after the disqualification of American winner Tyler Hamilton for blood doping. Rogers went on to crush the World Championship time trial that year, beating German Michael Rich and Alexander Vinokourov by more than a minute. Following the disqualification of David Millar for doping from the 2003 World Championships, Rogers was also awarded the gold medal for the previous year.

Rogers made it three in a row at the 2005 world championships in Madrid.

In 2006, Rogers moved across to the T-Mobile squad, and came 9th overall in the Tour de France, his best overall finish there, but it came in the wake of the Operacion Puerto scandal, during which his teammates Jan Ullrich and Oscar Sevilla and directeur Rudy Pevenage were suspended.

Although Patrik Sinkewitz claimed the entire 2006 T-Mobile Tour de France squad visited the Freiburg clinic to receive blood transfusions, Rogers steadfastly denied involvement and was kept in the team after American Bob Stapleton took over to clean up its image. Rogers remained with the High Road organisation, with which he won the Tour of California in 2010 until he moved to Team Sky in 2011. He spent two years with them before moving on to Saxo-Tinkoff, helping Bradley Wiggins to the 2012 Tour de France victory.

In 2013, Rogers tested positive for Clenbuterol after the Japan Cup, but escaped sanction after arguing the result was from contaminated meat in China. He returned in time for the Giro d'Itaila, and gained his first Grand Tour stage win with a solo attack on the descent to Savona. The result opened the flood gates, and he would win again on the Monte Zoncolan, and then claim his first Tour de France stage two months later in Bagneres-de-Luchon.

All the while, Rogers' congenital defect in his aorta remained stable, but arrhythmia was detected before the Tour Down Under, and he was pulled from the race out of caution. He started again in the Dubai Tour, but once again had to stop because of the issues. He announced his retirement today.

The full letter from Michael Rogers 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 parent 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.

Michael Rogers

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