While many had been anticipating Michael Rogers' Sky teammate Edvald Boasson Hagen to light up the two climbs of Old Willunga Hill on Saturday's queen stage of the Tour Down Under, it was the Australian who came closest to the podium.
Rogers finished fourth on the 151.5 kilometre stage from McLaren Vale to Old Willunga Hill, four seconds off the pace of winner Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). Boasson Hagen was in the mix, and finished in sixth after fading in the final few hundred metres. Rogers' efforts earned him fourth place on the general classification, 14 seconds back from the time shared by Simon Gerrans and Alejandro Valverde.
"It's a little victory for myself there today," Rogers told Cyclingnews, clearly pleased with the day's result. "I achieved a goal which was to get the best out of myself and I really did it so I'm really happy."
Rogers, Boasson Hagen, and Danny Pate began the final ascent of the climb in good position and it was the Australian who launched an attack with a kilometre to the finish.
"Obviously it was a lot of headwind up the last hill and I just said well, it's either sit on and not beat them in the sprint or have a go," Rogers explained.
Valverde's interests were protected by his teammate Javier Moreno and Rogers' blast was short-lived, but he set himself up for a strong finale and admitted afterwards that he was "a little bit surprised" with his ride.
"I knew I was around the mark," Rogers said. "Nationals is always the first race and it takes me three or four days before I get really good race legs."
It has been Rogers' consistency this week – he finished in the front group every day bar stage 2 where Uni-SA's Will Clarke stayed away for a solo victory in Stirling – that has been most impressive, coming after a frustrating 2011 season where he was dogged by the return of glandular fever for the third time in his illustrious career.
Given that Sky's aim on Sunday's final stage of the Tour Down Under, a 90km criterium, will be to chase a win for Boasson Hagen, Rogers could yet move up the GC order courtesy of his work within the sprint train.
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