Before the start of #TDF2024 Michael Rogers was back at a bike race. He no longer races and he recently quit his job at the UCI and is now considering his next step in what has always been a successful life in pro cycling…

 


– Interview by Rob Arnold


 

 

On the eve of the 111th Tour de France start Michael Rogers was in Florence to give a talk at the Becycle expo about ‘Scientific Training, Pioneering, Innovation and Future’ on a panel alongside Uli Schoberer and Rachel Neylan. Beforehand I had a chance to chat with the three-time TT world champion – and winner of stages a the TDF and Giro d’Italia 10 years ago.

We found a quiet spot near the Piazza di Santa Maria Novella and sat down for an impromptu interview. The Australian has lived a life of cycling since his early teenage years. Now 44, Rogers recently worked with the UCI as ‘Head of Innovation’ and is now enjoying his first hiatus from work in the cycling realm.

It was going to be a quick catch-up that soon became a long discussion about a range of topics relating to the sport he loves, race wins as a pro cyclist, the work he was doing with the UCI over the past few years, and what he expects from the future of cycling.

Click ‘play’ on the link and listen to Rogers speak candidly about cycling, some personalities he’s worked with, and a sport he is still passionate about.

Note: You can click on the chapters in the YouTube clip (listed below) and select the portion of the interview about the various topics raised.

 


Chapters of the interview

 

    • Introduction
    • 02:17 Michael explains his most recent job
    • 04:43 Managing safety in road races
    • 06:53 Administration role vs racing days…
    • 09:07 Links with myriad high-profile people in cycling, and memories of the racing days
    • 10:16 Starting out with the Mapei cycling program in the late-1990s
    • 13:05 Considering the significance of the Tour de France stage win in 2014
    • 15:00 Watching the sport of cycling evolve in Australia during his career
    • 18:11 The Olympics obsession in Australian cycling
    • 22:21 Considering emerging cycling disciplines…
    • 25:08 Mick’s role in policing some recent cycling innovations

Lessons of a different kind

Rogers explains that, because of his commitment to racing during his younger days, he missed out on getting the kind of education many teenagers in his hometown of Canberra received. Still, thanks to a different kind of lifestyle to many, he learned the lessons of life by travelling and mixing with good people during his formative years.

“I had a fantastic time as a professional cyclist,” he says about those early days spent in Europe, where he continues to live despite retiring from racing early in the 2016 season while part of the Saxo Bank team because of a bicuspid aortic valve, a heart condition he’s had since birth.

Michael Rogers when he won the Australian Cyclist of the Year award in 2003.

He was diagnosed with the condition back in 2001 and achieved great things as a pro cyclist – including winning three TT world championships (the first retrospectively after originally finishing second to David Millar in 2003), as well as two stages of the Giro d’Italia and one in the Tour de France in 2014, effectively the twilight years of his career.

“As a young kid growing up in Australia, as soon as I had the chance to go over to Europe I was there. I left home when I was 16 [and] I kind of I guess missed out on the normal path of having an academic pathway – studies, going to university and acquiring skills during kind of more traditional methods.

“I guess I was opposite,” he laughs, adding, “I grew up on the streets, if I can say it that way, as a cyclist. I had some hard lessons along the way but great lessons.”

There are plenty of highlights from life on the road – as a pro cyclist and, after retiring from elite sport, as an administrator with various companies involved in the sport. Rogers also suffered setbacks and frustration during his time as an athlete, none bigger than a positive test for clenbuterol from the Japan Cup at the end of 2013.

After that bombshell dropped, he quickly set about clearing his name. It took several months and plenty of investigation but ultimately the WADA concurred that it was the result of food contamination and he was cleared of any wrongdoing.

Rogers during the 2015 Tour de France, his final Grand Tour of a long and successful career. (Photo: Graham Watson)

When he returned to competition in May 2014, Rogers first race was the Giro d’Italia. He placed fourth in the team time trial on the opening day in Belfast racing alongside the likes of Rafal Majka, Nico Roche and one of his rivals from the early years in Europe, Evgeni Petrov.

Towards the end of the second week of the 2014 Giro he became a Grand Tour stage winner, riding into Savanno after being part of a day-long escape group. A week later he was on the attack again and his next triumph was atop Monte Zoncolan, the final climb of that year’s Giro.

Rogers on the way to victory in stage 20 of the 2014 Giro d’Italia. (Photo: Yuzuru Sunada)

There are many other conquests from his years as a cyclist but it was during his time working with the UCI that he faced some significant challenges. At a time of dramatic change for the governing body of cycling he was appointed ‘Head of Innovation’, overseeing a wide range of important elements relating to road cycling including equipment use and safety.

He was happy to be in Florence for the start of the Tour de France on Saturday but also expressed relief at not having to be part of the planning committee that ensures the race runs as smoothly as possible.

In road cycling there are many variables and Rogers notes some of them during out long discussion. “It’s amazing that things run on time and that bigger accidents don’t happen,” he says of the challenges facing ASO, organisers of the TDF.

“And it’s not only from, you know, the perspective of the riders – [and] there has been quite an alarming increase, over the last five or six years, in the amount of incidents – but also outside of the race…

“One of the fascinating elements of [cycling] that I had no idea of before joining the UCI is what really goes into organising a race. Some of those logistics in route planning,” he says before offering an example.

“By choosing a particular way through the city, if that’s not carefully planned it could potentially cut off half of the city’s access to hospitals… unfortunately sometimes solutions need to be found.

“There could be a direct straight road to the finish but sometimes, once the local governments or local city planners get hold of that route, and they really look into the details and look at the consequences of that particular route choice – one that could be the most efficient – there can be situations where it cuts off half the city to a hospital… or a million other different reasons.

“So, it was fascinating learning all the other intricacies of the sport.”

It’s a long interview and we explore plenty of topics. If you watch (or listen) I hope you enjoy the chat and learn a few things about the life of Michael Rogers and pro cycling.

He’s not working at the moment but Rogers is never far away from the sport he loves. We wait to see what the next phase of his career is but in the meantime, he assures me, he’ll continue to follow the racing and keep in touch with the many people who have helped him carve out a path as a successful professional, on and off the bike.

 

 

– By Rob Arnold

 


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