Apart from Alberto Contador, the rider in most demand at Saxo-Tinkoff's pre-Tour de France press conference was Michael Rogers. Last year the Australian helped Bradley Wiggins claim the yellow jersey as a key member of Team Sky's line-up. Twelve months on, he is hoping to repeat that feat with Contador. What everyone wanted to know was how the experience Rogers gained last year might be able to assist him and his new team this year.
Rogers started out by saying he's learned a lot at from all of the teams he's ridden for, which include Mapei, T-Mobile and HTC, as well as from all of the leaders he's worked with. "I take what I think is positive and apply that to how I race and how I make decisions on the road," he explained.
He admitted, though, that his stint at Sky was particularly interesting given the way the British team has dominated stage racing over the past two seasons. "Sky have certainly curved the sport - taken it in a new direction through science. If you go back a couple of years before that HTC did the same thing, especially with the team based around Mark Cavendish and the lead-out. They took that to a new level. Since then other teams have been catching up.
"When a team changes the sport like that, they become the reference point for all the other teams and within a year or two the other teams catch up. That's just how the sport progresses," said the 33-year-old Australian, who was Sky's road captain during the 2012 Tour.
"I think we can learn from all teams and all riders, not just Sky," Rogers continued. "However, everyone is obviously watching what they are doing and generally trying to improve. But I don't think you can just copy a team. Every team has its own characteristics and has to find the road that best suits it."
Pressed to explain how Sky have forged clear of rival teams, Rogers explained: "I think they are a lot more advanced in their training, more advanced in their sports science - they understand exactly what is happening in races. They know what's required to win a race, what's required for a rider in any role at a race - what's required of a domestique to do his job properly, for example. They know much more about the internals of the sport, in my opinion, than any other team."
Rogers admitted his new team are among those attempting to catch up with Sky in some key aspects. Yet he believes Saxo are adapting to new methods of training and preparation. "I think Saxo-Tinkoff have a lot of catching up to do on some points. Obviously the level of the team hasn't been what they want it to be, but they are working on it and I've seen big changes already since the start of the year," he said.
As for Contador, Rogers said the Spaniard is a very different type of rider to Sky's Wiggins and Froome.
"Alberto is a rider who runs off a lot of emotion - he uses a lot of emotion in the race. Whereas Chris is very calculated and Bradley was very calculated last year. They know their limits," he said.
Asked about Contador's heavy defeat to Froome in the time trial at the Critérium du Dauphiné earlier this month, Rogers acknowledged: "Alberto has certainly got to improve in the time trials based on what we saw in the time trial at the Dauphiné. I think Chris Froome has certainly progressed based on what we've seen over the last couple of years. However, I wouldn't say the Dauphiné was an accurate showing of Alberto's condition. He had a particularly bad day. Those happen. Personally, I hope it doesn't happen again."
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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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