Former downhill mountain biker Rico Rogers will return to the 2011 Lakes Oil Tour of Gippsland with mixed emotions. In the 2010 edition of the race the New Zealander hit the bitumen in the opening criterium and was battered and bleeding. But after finishing he went on to win the afternoon’s stage – his first victory in professional road racing.
"While last year’s Tour of Gippsland was painfully grim for me because of my injuries, I had a good time there because it marked the start of my new career," Rogers said. "I got noticed and I realized that I could sprint with the best of them and hold my own in the mountains."
Rogers’ performance in Gippsland were enough for him to be offered a contract with the continental Giant Kenda Team and the 33-year-old has never looked back. His results in 2011 so far have been impressive, with his biggest win coming just last week on the Tour of Qinghai Lake’s 8th stage to Lanzhou.
The New Zealander has improved significantly from last year and many pundits are tipping him to win this year’s Tour of Gippsland after making the podium of last year’s race.
"Why not?," he said. "I am a sprinter and always back myself, and I reckon I can stay with the best of them in the mountains. "I’ve changed my racing style a bit since my mountain bike days. I had big dramas [at the start]. I always thought I could go faster than I could. I was a little bit young and crazy."
The Tour of Gippsland starts on Wednesday 27th of July.