World time trial champion Michael Rogers (Quick.Step) took the lead in the Tour de Suisse yesterday with a strong performance in the final four uphill kilometres of the sixth stage. With Chris Horner and Vincenzo Nibali already up the road for first and second, Rogers went with a group containing Fabian Jeker and Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier), Frank Schleck (CSC), Koldo Gil (Liberty), Tadej Valjavec (Phonak), and Aitor Gonzalez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), distancing race leader Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) by 34 seconds at the finish. Rogers was the best of his group to finish third in the stage, which gave him a 20 second advantage over Ullrich on GC.
"It was quite a hard stage and the last climb was very hard but I've done a lot more training in the mountains compared with last year and I'm feeling good," said Rogers who lives and trains in the mountains near Varese in Italy during the European professional season. "I'm in much better condition than the same time last year as well.
"I really wanted the leader's jersey but I concentrated on my own race and not on Jan (Ullrich)," explained Rogers. "It was a tough stage and I just worked on staying in front but I think if he (Ullrich) had the legs he would have gone with me when I attacked."
On Friday morning before the start of stage 7, Rogers was quietly confident that he could hold onto the lead for the remaining three days. "Obviously the legs are a little bit sore but everyone is in the same boat," he said. "We've got three pretty hard days coming up, especially the last day, which is short but has three very solid mountains in it. It's going to be quite a job to hold it but I'm confident, I have a great team around me and my condition is good."
This week has also boosted Rogers' confidence ahead of next month's Tour de France. "I pretty much based the whole year around the Tour and it seems it's coming good at the right time," he said. "I'll have a short rest after this race finished and then move onto France with all the groundwork done and well prepared."
Cyclingnews will cover the seventh stage live, starting at 15.00 CEST.