By Anthony Tan in Lenk
After an audacious move on Stage 6, where he attacked a select group containing Jan Ullrich and Bradley McGee, Michael Rogers now finds himself the current leader of the Tour de Suisse. It's an enviable position to be in, but with two of the most arguably difficult stages remaining, it's also one full of pressure.
"I saw the opportunity to take the yellow jersey, and if the stage came, that was a bonus. But first and foremost, it was the yellow jersey," said Rogers to Cyclingnews on the rationale behind his move on yesterday's 33 kilometre-long climb to Arosa, which was won by Saunier-Duval's sole American, Chris Horner.
"Yesterday does give me a lot of confidence, but in saying that, there are two really hard days ahead. Not only tomorrow, but the day after. As you've probably seen, there's not much flat; it's only short, but it's hard."
The 25 year-old from Australia's capital city of Canberra is, along with fellow countryman Bradley McGee (Française des Jeux), a time-triallist-cum-climber. Rogers is more adept at longer TT distances, having won back-to-back world championship titles the past two years, while McGee is a former world junior pursuit champion on the track and was part of Australia's gold medal-winning squad in the teams pursuit last August, at the Athens Olympic Games. However, both have transformed their abilities against the clock to become stage racers in their own right, whilst retaining most of their raw power to still motor on the flat.
Out of the two and including another Australian, Cadel Evans (Davitamon-Lotto), Rogers has been tipped as Australia's biggest Tour de France hope. Much was expected of him at last year's Grand Boucle, but for one reason or another, he wasn't able to deliver on what many thought he could promise, though still finishing with a credible 22nd place in Paris.
Maybe it's a small part of the reason why Rogers says he's prepared to lay everything on the line in the next two days. And by that, he means everything
"I think I'm in a good opportunity here, and there's no saving any energy here... I'll hang onto the jersey till I drop. I think it's always a mistake to be saving your energy for down the road, because down the road might never arrive. When opportunities come, I'm the kind of person who likes to take them, and that's the way I'll race the next two days," he said.
"So..." he says to Cyclingnews, "we just have to play our cards right. I don't think we can go into the race hoping for Plan A; we have to have Plan B, C and D as well, you know. That's a part of cycling - anything can happen, and I have to expect that in the next few days."
Today, on the road to Lenk, his Quick.Step-Innergetic team simply did what it needed to do, only letting a break go in the early kilometres, with the stage won by Team CSC's Linus Gerdemann. In tomorrow's Stage 8, his team plans to do the same, although with another mountain-top finish in Verbier, the end result is certain to be different.
"I think tomorrow, a lot of people are going to try and make the break again, so I think we're going to control the race till the last climb. And then, whoever's the strongest, wins."
With the top 10 riders all within two minutes of each other, Rogers is experienced enough to know it's not over till it's over, rating the team from Saunier Duval-Prodir as perhaps his biggest threat. "There are three or four riders that can be dangerous, and they have some cards to play with those three or four riders," he said.
"But I'm not really considering anything till it's done; I think it's too early to say it's over," cautioned Rogers.
"I mean, if there were two flat stages the next few days, I could be quite confident with the team that I have that we could control the race - but there's two days which are probably the two hardest days of the race, and if I do go on to win, it will cross my mind when it's over."