The runner-up in the Criterium du Dauphiné of 2012, Michael Rogers, spoke with Rob Arnold about his efforts in that race as well as what he expects from the Tour de France this year.
The 32-year-old finished second behind his Sky team-mate Bradley Wiggins. There was 1:17 separating the Brit from the Australian at the top of the general classification.
Rogers had a turbulent time in 2011, suffering with fatigue and never really able to get on top of his form, but his second season with the British team is proving to be particularly successful. Just prior to the one-week Dauphiné race, he won two stages and the overall title of the Bayern Rundfahrt in Germany. And it is almost certain that Rogers will be part of the Sky line-up for the 2012 Tour de France.
Here is a transcript of the chat…
Michael Rogers Interview
RIDE: Fantastic ride in the Dauphiné. You guys looked awesome throughout that whole week…
Michael Rogers: “Yeah, it was nice. The team is firing for sure. It’s a pleasure to be a part of it. The whole team is working on another level, it’s so good. It’s got a completely different mentality to all the other teams that I’ve been involved with.”
It looks very professional and Bradley seems totally… ah, ready. He looks incredible.
Michael Rogers: “Yeah, I’ve never seen anyone be so convinced in his ability and sure about what he’s doing. It’s really nice to see actually.”
It’s good to see you nice and relaxed and on the lounge. This is the first time we’ve spoken since your move to Switzerland. How has that been?
Michael Rogers: “Yeah, we’ve moved to Switzerland but I’m at my parent-in-laws in Italy at the moment. We had to come over here and do a few things and we’re still picking things up out of the place where we’ve been living for the past few years. We’ve been in Switzerland for a month and a bit now but we’re still figuring out what needs to go where. But we’re all good and we enjoy living in a new place.”
Tell us about the result at the Dauphiné and also how you feel about coming back into the winner’s circle after more-or-less having to write off 2011.
Michael Rogers: “Last year was a season that I had to cross off, certainly on the sporting side of things but I think that I’m actually really grateful that it happened because it allows you to see things from a completely different perspective.
“I’ve made a big decision to change my mental approach, really.
“I was always running around trying to be someone that I wasn’t. I was training too much and trying to be superman all the time – trying to be the bike rider that I wasn’t. And I just said, ‘Enough is enough.’ I was sick of trying to do all that and so I went back to what I was doing as a kid… and I based that decision on what I’ve learned over the years.
“Early in my career I won some big races and I got to this level doing things a certain way and it must’ve been right for me. Clearly it did work.
“Trying to be the person that I wasn’t in the bike riding sense wasn’t working; it was full of disappointments and morale blows and I’d had enough of it really.”
Can you isolate the changes you’ve made? Is it more a mental approach or have you resorted to older training methods? What’s making the difference?
Michael Rogers: “It’s a mix of both really. Obviously, it starts with the mental approach and finishes with the way I handle the training. I was always a time trial rider when I was a kid – that was my best discipline – and I went back to doing what I’d done when training for that. And I wasn’t trying to go full peg up mountains all day like I’ve been doing the last couple of years.
“I went back to my time trial work and the pleasant surprise is that – because I’m starting to get that good strength back – was climbing just as well as I ever have in the past.”
Can you offer any SRM data or some feedback that we can relate to? Are you heavier now? Lighter? What sort of power are you generating?
Michael Rogers: “I’ve seen a five to seven per cent increase in my general threshold power. And that’s great. It’s also come from working with Tim Kerrison of Team Sky, as Bradley has – and as have most of the guys in the Tour team… we’ve all been training under his guidance and he’s bringing some fresh thoughts into it for all of us.
“There’s a bit of variation and a lot of the techniques have come from his background in swimming. And so far it’s been working well.”
What about Richie… he has clearly adapted well to it as well.
Michael Rogers: “Richie works closely with Tim and also Bobby Julich and he’s got a really good combination there and I think he’s made a lot of progress this year even compared to recent years.”
How do you find it being on the team with Richie. There were obvious times in the Dauphiné, for example, when we could see four or five of you all doing pacesetting duties in the climbs. It was impressive to see.
Michael Rogers: “I haven’t seen any of the coverage but I know what was going on. Obviously Richie has been climbing really well this year and we all know that Bradley will be the leader at the Tour and I think – with the amount of time trial kilometres for this year’s course – it’s a year that Bradley can win the title. At the moment he’s certainly superior to everyone in the time trials and I haven’t seen anyone be able to drop him in the mountains yet so it bodes well and it certainly promises some interesting racing.”
It seems like a fun guy. What’s it like working with Bradley?
Michael Rogers: “Brad has really matured in the sense that he’s not scared to be the leader any more. In the past he was kind of… I think he got very frustrated with that role. Now he just believes, first and foremost, in the work that he’s done – in the training – and, the effect of that is that he now thinks he’s worthy of team leadership. He’s shown over and over this year that he’s The Force for general classification.”
Is where you’re living in Switzerland near to Cadel?
Michael Rogers: “Yeah, we’re in Mendrisio and it’s only about five or six kilometres from his house.”
Do you see him out there on the roads very often?
Michael Rogers: “I’ve seen Cadel a couple of times. I saw him ride by my house the other day actually – he didn’t see me – but I see him more at the races really.
“We’ve all been off doing our training camps. We’ve been riding at altitude and he’s been off doing his things so we haven’t actually crossed paths that much lately.”
When you stepped on the podium at the Dauphiné, you shook Cadel’s hand before taking your place on the other side of Bradley. How’s your relationship with Cadel these days?
Michael Rogers: “We definitely communicate more now than we used to. It’s no secret that I think Cadel has really opened up ever since he won the world championships . I’ve thought about it and my conclusion is this: he always knew that he had the capability to win important races but circumstances that may have been out of his control didn’t allow that to happen. He wasn’t able to win the races that he knew he could win. It think he was always a little bit frustrated.
“Certainly, ever since he won the worlds, he confirmed to himself that he’s the rider that he knew he was. And I think on a personal level – with the riders and in the press – he’s completely relaxed and chilled out.”
Can you talk, for example, about the day to Morzine in the Dauphiné? It was billed as what could have been an absolutely fantastic stage but really you guys tapped out such a tempo that it killed off any chance of attacks. There were some guys who were only just able to hold on while going up the climb… but at the top Cadel went on the attack. What do you make of that tactic?
Michael Rogers: “Obviously our idea was to put the pressure on going up the Joux Plane. I think Boasson Hagen put everyone on the ropes with his effort – he set a really, really high tempo for the first half of the climb and then Richie took over. We could see that [Jurgen] van den Broeck really had plans to attack but with the tempo that Richie was setting, I don’t think he was able to – everyone was on the limit. There was only four or five guys left at the top…”
Did you have your SRM on the bike that day?
Michael Rogers: “Yeah.”
Going up the climb, what sort of power were you generating?
Michael Rogers: “We did [the Joux Plane climb] in 34:50, I think, and I averaged 440 Watts. That was one of my highest every power reports.”
And what about Bradley? Do you know his equivalent?
Michael Rogers: “No.
“Getting back to your original question, it was obvious that Cadel was worried about Tony Martin coming back first and foremost.
“We didn’t want to risk it on the descent, I’ll say that first. We had plenty of time up our sleeve [on GC after five stages and a prologue] and we didn’t see any need to throw ourselves off on a corner.
“Cadel was concerned about Tony Martin – who was, at the time, second on GC… so obviously he accelerated over the top and was descending very well. We could have followed him if we really had to but we had the little time buffer and we used that to our advantage.
“In the end, the gain was only minimal – it was only eights seconds – so it wasn’t really an issue.”
In the team bus afterwards to you go, ‘What was that all about?’ Or did you just see that it was logical for him to attack on the descent?
Michael Rogers: “Oh for it was logical! Why wouldn’t it be? He was trying to get up there into second or at least cement his place on the podium. He’s a real fighter and he fights for every position he can make up.”
And what are you doing between now and the Tour? There is a little over 10 days to go before the prologue in Liège…
Michael Rogers: “I’m going to head up in to the mountains with the family for a few days and just chill out at altitude. It’s been damn hot down here. But we’ll go up to Livigno and have a few days of good training. One of my team-mates is already up there…”
Michael Rogers: “Siutsou.”
What’s he like? We see a lot of him but we don’t hear a lot of commentary on him. What’s your appraisal?
Michael Rogers: “He’s a legend. I’ve known ‘Kosta’ for a fair few years now. We were there at HTC together for a couple of seasons and when management asked me what my thoughts were on him, I gave them my experiences and told them what I thought. He’s as loyal as a dog; he’ll always be there for you, day in and day out. He’ll also be there at the right moment!
“For any team that has interests in the general classification he is, obviously, a class act.”
Are you getting a lot of attention from the media after the second place in the Dauphiné?
Michael Rogers: “Oh. Nah. Not really. Well, a lot do get in touch – but just to ask questions about Bradley. That’s about it really. That’s fine. It’s good.”
What about the Olympics? Are you going to do the time trial or not? What’s going on?
Michael Rogers: “I don’t know. I think the team will be announced in the next day or so but I haven’t heard anything yet.”
If you made the selection, what would it be? Who should the two for the time trial be?
Michael Rogers: “It’s going to be down between Cadel, Richie and myself.”
Would Luke [Durbridge] still be in with a chance…?
Michael Rogers: “Obviously, him as well. He’s another one going for one of the two spots. He’s riding really well, yeah. We shouldn’t forget about him either. He’s a very strong boy.
“I’ve spoken with Luke about his career a fair bit actually. We’re both very similar riders.
“When I was in my first year as a professional, I don’t think I was quite at the level that he is – especially in the short time trials – but I think he’s got a very good future in time trials and there’s no reason why he can’t win any kind of one-week stage race out there. I think that’s where his focus should be for the next couple of years anyway. He should concentrate on short stage races with time trials because there’s not one that he can’t win. And, for now, he can climb quite well as long as the mountains aren’t too long. And I’m sure he’ll only improve.
“That’s what I did early in my career and then I started chasing bigger goals and stuff that I wasn’t really ready for so I had to back off a little bit but, in hindsight, I wish I’d continued to concentrate on one-week stage races.”
What about you at the Tour? Where will you be? Will you be in the top 10 again because you’re doing the work like you did in the Dauphiné? What’s the set-up and how will it work?
Michael Rogers: “I think it’s pretty hard to predict right now. The Tour is obviously a different race and I think it’ll be a completely different scenario compared to the Dauphiné.
“We’ll all have to do a lot more work than what we have in the last few races.
“At the moment, first and foremost, our focus is the victory. The yellow jersey – that’s what we’re concerned about.”
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