Cycling enthusiasts who only follow the Grand Tours haven't seen Team Columbia-Highroad's Michael Rogers in action since he crashed on the downhill of the Cormet de Roselend during the 2007 Tour de France. He was forced to withdraw 20 kilometres further in the montée de Hauteville with a broken shoulder.
This accident changed the history of cycling. Rogers had made the right move. He was in a breakaway with a five-minute lead over the Dane Michael Rasmussen, who took over from him at the front and started his infamous campaign to Tignes. Had Rogers not crashed, it would have been a different Tour de France than the one that ended up becoming known for Rasmussen's controversial whereabouts and Alberto Contador's lucky win.
"It took me a while to recover, and then I was out of action because of glandular fever," Rogers recalled. He wasn't picked by Team Columbia for last year's Tour de France because of a too short recovery. Although he was doing great at the Dauphiné and he had no chance to ride the Vuelta a España because the team simply didn't line up.
"I really wanted to do the Giro [d'Italia] again," said Rogers, who rode the race only once before, in 2006, mostly as a preparation for the Tour de France. "I'm excited. I have close ties with this country – my wife is Italian. It's important to do it this year for the cycling history. I rode the centennial Tour de France and it was special, also because it was my first one. This 100th Giro, it's just great to be part of it."
The Australian hasn't travelled all the way to Venice just to be a tourist. "I'd be happy with a top-10," he said. "I think I have the legs to do it. The team time trial is very important. I think we have a strong team. Garmin-Slipstream also does, but they will have to go fast to beat us."
Rogers is Team Columbia-Highroad's captain for the Giro. "I'll have a really good support," he said. "Thomas Lövkvist is looking a bit further down in the season but the average of the team is very high, plus we have Mark Cavendish and Mark Renshaw for the sprints. The core of the team we have here will also do the Tour. I'll do both this year."