Rogers: “The most important thing, I can still ride”
Michael Rogers explains his feelings about his retirement only a few hours after he made it official that he will not race as a professional cyclist again.
Here is part two of our series…
See more: Part one •
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Q&A with Michael Rogers
Almost five months into his 16th season as a professional rider, many were wondering when Michael Rogers would properly begin his racing campaign in 2016. He competed with Tinkoff for just two days this year: stages one and two of the Dubai Tour in February.
There won’t be another race.
As of 25 April 2016, Mick Rogers is no longer a pro cyclist.
A heart condition forced him to make a decision on his future and, for all the joy he gets out of cycling, he’ll now ride for recreation and exercise alone. Racing is part in the past, the future is all about the family.
“I’ve always been under very tight control the whole way through my career,” Rogers told RIDE about the heart condition he’s known about since the beginning of his professional racing career. “Every six months I’ve always had a visit with the cardiologist, a cardio examination, and it’s always been very much stable, very much under control until recently.
“In about October last year, 2015, the cardiologist was starting to get a little bit concerned not only with the amount of these extra systoles that were happening but the actual amount of blood regurgitating back into the heart was also increasing which, in turn, causes more of these extra systole beats – these irregular beats.
“In this particular condition that I have it’s quite a well known fact that the condition deteriorates quite a big amount in your mid-30s, right where I am now. So it all falls perfectly into your typical scenario of this particular condition.
“The tissues of the heart valve are starting to become less flexible and therefore unable to move as fast and efficiently as before and therefore more blood does regurgitate back in.
“That’s gives quite a simple explanation.”
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A rider rides. Racing is part of the past for Michael Rogers but, on the day we spoke about his pending retirement announcement, he had just returned from a three-hour ride. It’s part of his routine but now it’s riding, not training.
“I’ll still ride my bike pretty much every day,” said the 36-year-old yesterday.
“I’ll still exercise every day. And with my heart condition, that’s fully not a problem at all – it’s just racing that is starting to become risky. So one mitigates that by not doing 15 kilometre sprints up Alpe d’Huez.
“Cycling will always be a part of me and it’s part of my DNA and who I am. I think it would be foolish for me to not recognise that. But saying that it’s time for me to change gears or turn the page, so they say, and learn maybe cycling from a new perspective or a different role.”
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On the evening of his retirement announcement, Michael Rogers finished a drive, checked into a hotel in Geneva in advance of another consultation with another cardiac specialist… and then tried to explain the emotions he’s feeling as a rider who is about to embark on another chapter of his life.
Click the Soundcloud files to listen to the interview and/or read the transcript below.
RIDE: I’ve got Mick Rogers on the line. A couple of hours ago he announced his retirement, officially, from racing and there’s been a big reaction on Twitter and social media and I wonder if you could just give us a quick overview on how you’re feeling right now.
Michael Rogers: “There’s a lot of stuff going on especially on social media, as you said… a beautiful moment for me is just to also see – and hear back from – all those people who are touched during my career. It’s certainly a nice feeling, absolutely.”
We’ve seen retweets from the likes of [Alberto] Contador and other team-mates of yours. Which one has given you most joy…?
“Well, there’s so many right now. I haven’t really seen them all. I haven’t really had the time to read through them all. But it nice just to have that general feeling…
“Also mostly, more than anything, by far the biggest message is: ‘Thank you Michael… you’ve left us great memories’. And for me that’s a lot. That really means something special.”
When anyone does something that they’ve loved for so long and then suddenly it has to stop, it affects them in various ways. How’s it hitting you now that it’s a reality?
“First thing: I can still get on my bike. And that’s the most important thing, I can still ride. I can still go out and enjoy my exercise which, for me, is a very important thing.
“Rob, you’re the first one to know that I’ve done this sport ever since I was seven and racing my bike has been a big part of that, not only the training side but there’s a lot going on in my head to be truthful.
“I think I’ll miss my team-mates a lot.
“I don’t know if I’ll miss the fatigue, the training, the racing side but I think I’ll miss that [camaraderie] with my team-mates and just putting things on the line: that’s what I’ve done – a big part of my life is just sacrifice for one goal, whether it was for myself or for another person. And that was an extremely satisfying job, absolutely.”
I’m just trying to get your immediate reaction, to be frank.
“It’s been nice. As I said there’s a lot of stuff going on at the moment but I’m taking it and it’s good fun. I’m very happy.”
I think that the Australian media is probably going to pay attention to cycling because they do tend to gravitate towards interesting stories – and a heart condition that forces a leader of his generation out of the sport is something that will get a bit of traction, I’d imagine. What would you say to the media…?
“I think I’d answer them in a way that is what I feel.
“In the interviews that we did the last days I hope that I was articulate enough to explain the way I felt and answer [your questions] as authentically as I can – in my own way.”
I’ve said this often to people when we’re doing interviews for the magazine: the bike brings a lot of pleasure to a lot of people. What is it that you get out of it? When we spoke the other day you’d just been out for three hours basically enjoying yourself. Are you still listening to audio books as you pedal and doing things like that?
“Yeah. I need to go… I need my exercise. I need my bike to clear my mind, really. It’s always a bit of therapy for me: time to think, time to go over thoughts that need deeper thinking, and I’ve always done a lot of training on my own exactly for that.
“I’m by no means a loner, I like company on the bike, but I need that time on my own to go over what’s going on in my world and think out the best way forward.”
A lot of people get lessons from their careers. You’ve had a lot of lessons through working with so many people involved with cycling in the high performance level. When you’re trying to articulate those lessons for the everyday person, what’s a key component of all of it…?
“One thing that I’ve learned is that there’s a thousand ways to skin a cat. I always tried not to get too embedded into seeing things from one perspective.
“I suppose one of the best pieces of advice I ever had was from Allan Peiper and he told a story about how he was in a hard situation in one part of his cycling career and he said: ‘You know Michael, I realised after that that I needed to have a broader perspective and not go into all these defining moments seeing things from one perspective.’ And that resonated a lot with me. I was able to take that on and I used that a lot of times in my career.”
Above all it’s to enjoy yourself and get the most out of your body and you’ve done that very well. And onward to sorting out your cardiac issues so that you can have a healthy, happy family life…
“Yeah. That’s it. Now we have to boil down and find out the exact cause and it might take some time.
“The first thing I can do to mitigate any potential disaster is stop racing, stop sprinting up Alpe d’Huez and things like that.
“But there’s experts in the world, and I’ve been in contact with a lot of them already and I’m sure with time we can resolve the issue. I’m confident about that.”
After all the consultations with cardiologists, does it feel like there’s a need for surgery on it…? Is that a possibility?
“My understanding right now is that it’s not an immediate thing. A lot of them can’t see surgery happening in the short term.
“If this situation continues to degrade in the way that it has in the last year or six months then that option could totally be on the table. But I don’t have the expertise to put a date on it and I think that’ll be a thing that needs to be monitored.”
– Interview by Rob Arnold