While the comebacks of Lance Armstrong, Ivan Basso and Floyd Landis have all been well documented, Michael Rogers has had to endure his own fight back, but with an impressive 2009, the Australian is building for a shot at the Tour de France and Tour of California next year.
Rogers spent the majority of 2008 on the sidelines suffering from glandular fever. It was a tough break. The year before he'd suffered the unlucky fate of crashing out of the Tour de France while leading the race on the road. It was beginning to look like Rogers's career was stagnating.
However in 2009, the triple world time trial champion raced over 90 days on the bike and covered more than 13,000 kilometres in racing. To put that into perspective, it's more that he did in 2007 and 2008 combined. "I did a lot of racing this year, around 95 to 100 days. If you go back 10 years that's normal, but in the last few years most riders do around the 80 mark. So to do as much as I did was a big achievement for me. Especially after having the majority of the year out in 2008," Rogers told Cyclingnews.
Rogers started the 2009 season early and took part in the Tour Down Under, where he finished a creditable sixth overall, before ending up on the podium at the Tour of California in February. According to Rogers, that was the moment when he realised he was back and able to compete with the best once again. "Running third was a great moment for me. You had Levi Leipheimer and Dave Zabriskie and both guys have had either great success there or are super motivated. My plan was to come back and have strong start to the season and hold onto that form for as long as I could."
For 2010, Rogers will have a new programme. Out will go the Giro d'Italia, in which he finished eighth this year, and in will come the Tour of California before a crack at the overall at the Tour de France. If 2009 was the year of the rebuild, then 2010 is the year of confirmation. "I will go back to concentrating on the Tour again and slowly build up by doing Tour Down Under, Tirreno-Adriatico and the Tour of California. If I was to going to the Giro, it would only be for the first 10 days and besides, I enjoy racing in the States, so I wanted to go for that option."
Rogers will be aware that finishing high up in the Giro doesn't guarantee you a repeat at the Tour de France, where the calibre of rider is generally higher and the racing more competitive. However Rogers, with nearly a decade of professional racing under his belt, believes that a high placing overall is possible. At this stage he won't divulge as to whether his ambitions equate to top 10 or top five. "I'd like to be where I was in 2005, when I was competitive in stage races. It's going to be hard, but I'll be looking to a do good general classification ride."
And all of that experience will be put to test throughout the season after the departure of Columbia-HTC's experienced riders such as George Hincapie, Michael Barry and Kim Kirchen. "I've done a lot of racing for a lot of big teams and against most of the top riders. I've got bags of experience that I can pass on and I'm more than capable of making decisions of the road," said Rogers.
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