Rogers back on top after years in the wilderness
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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Rogers back on top after years in the wilderness

by Conal Andrews at 6:07 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 

Three years after being poised to take the Maillot Jaune in the Tour de France, Michael Rogers has grabbed the race lead in a major event. He placed fourth in Wednesday’s time trial stage of the Vuelta a Andalucia, finishing twelve seconds behind the victor Alex Rasmussen (Saxo Bank), and jumped to the top of the general classification.

The performance is of clear significance to his career, as it would appear to mark a return to the form which he showed in the 2007 Tour. Rogers was clear in a break on stage eight and appeared certain to pull on the yellow jersey, only to crash heavily on a descent and break his collarbone.

He suffered from the Epstein-Barr virus the following season, and is only now back to riding as well as before.

"It's been a long time since I led a stage race. I think the last time was in the Tour of Switzerland back in 2005, so it's good to be back on the podium again," Rogers said, feeling relatively confident heading into Thursday’s mountainous final stage. He holds a 19 seconds lead over Belgium’s Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Omega Pharma Lotto), and is a further eleven ahead of Sergio Pardilla (Carmiooro-NGC).

"I'm very happy. I worked hard this winter and changed just about everything I could training-wise, and it seems like the training changes have been working,” he said. “I had quite good condition in the Tour Down Under, and my next big target is Tirreno-Adriatico. But of course we'll defend the lead as hard as we can here on the final stage."

The Tour of Andalusia finishes with a 161.4-kilometre stage from Torrox to Antequera with several mountain climbs. He’ll have the full backing of the Columbia HTC squad and they will battle hard to ensure that the jersey stays on his shoulders.

"We've got a good team here, and we'll do everything we can to bring the race home. It'll be a tough day throughout, and there's a climb right at the start and the finish is hard, too,” he said, accepting that they will have to dig deep. “There'll be a lot of attacks, I've got a bit of a buffer overall, 19 seconds, but it's not over yet by any means."

Rogers is a three-time world time trial champion and a past winner of the Deutschland Tour and the Ruta del Sud. Apart from his 2009 national time trial crown, the last individual victory he achieved was the third stage of the Regio Tour in 2006.

Winning the Vuelta a Andalucia would undoubtedly be a massive boost to his confidence and morale.

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