Michael Rogers described his Giro d'Italia stage victory in Savona as a rainbow shining bright at the end of a tunnel, confirming that it was a very special victory after his difficult winter spent fighting a possible ban for doping.
The veteran Australian spent the off-season in the dark about his future, trying to save his career after testing positive for Clenbuterol following his victory in the Japan Cup in October.
His teammate Alberto Contador was banned for two years for the same substance, but Rogers was not given a ban by the UCI after convincing them that there was a significant probability that the presence of Clenbuterol may have resulted from the consumption of contaminated meat from China. He was cleared on April 23 and was quickly drafted in the Tinkoff-Saxo team for the Giro d'Italia.
"It's been a difficult period, but there's always light at the end of the tunnel. There are always difficult moments in life, but today I can see a rainbow," he said.
Rogers dedicated his victory to his Italian wife Alessia and their three children.
"I tried to live my life as a rider but I had a lot of anger at first. We realised that didn’t help and so I kept my head down. I kept training at 100 per cent, even if I wasn't able to race," he said.
Helping others avoid similar problems
Rogers had full support from the Tinkoff-Saxo team as he fought to avoid a ban, with the team's counsel Gawie Nienaber providing key legal advice. He admitted he did not fully understand the legal process and how he managed to avoid a ban.
"During my case I only understood a part of it. I don't pretend to understand it all. I gave my explanation and went to the experts who really know this substance," he said, refusing to reveal how much his legal battle had cost him financially.
However, Rogers hopes that it has been worth it and that his case can help other riders avoid similar problems.
"What I've learnt is that is that things like this are so difficult," he said.
"If it was simple, there'd be a limit (on level of Clenbuterol) by WADA but there isn’t, so every case if different. I really hope that my case can help the system. But its very complicated and every case is analyzed case by case."
Evans is strong
As a former three-time world champion in 2003, 2004 and 2005, Rogers could be expected to target Thursday's key time trial stage between Barbaresco and Barolo but he admitted that his best time trials days are behind him.
He predicted a battle between the overall contenders in the Piemonte vineyards and warned it will be hard to beat fellow Australian Cadel Evans in this year's Giro d'Italia.
"Evans is strong and his team is racing really well," Rogers said.
"His directuer sportif Valerio Piva is very good and has lots of experience. They know where they're strong and Cadel has experience that almost nobody else has."
And his major rival Nairo Quintana?
"He's good at hiding," Rogers pointed out, confirming that Quintana has been hiding behind a sphinx-like impression to mask his pain and problems of the first part of the Giro d'Italia.
"To be honest there haven’t been any scary mountain stages yet. There's been a pair but people have kept something in reserve," Rogers said.
"The final week is hard, the climbs are hard and are part of the history of the race. I think there'll be some big surprises."
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