• Michael Rogers (C) and Tinkoff-Saxo team-mates taking a spin before the Giro d'Italia start in San Remo (Bettini Photo)
A day out from his departure for the Giro d’Italia Australian Michael Rogers was working through a list of things to do.
Sophie Smith

9 May 2015 - 6:01 AM 

“It’s about 300 things,” he exaggerated. “Cutting my hair is about the most exciting. You should see my head; it looks like I’ve got a wig on. I haven’t cut it for months.”

Rogers concluded a three-week altitude training camp with Alberto Contador and four other Tinkoff-Saxo team-mates in Tenerife last week where he estimates the top five Giro race favourites also all were.

On Saturday the 35-year-old will commence a three-week battle racing for maglia rosa hopeful Contador. The Spaniard faces stiff competition no less from Rogers's former lieutenant turned chief rival Richie Porte who, having claimed three race titles, five stages and a national championship in the lead-up, looks primed for a second opportunity as an outright Grand Tour leader at Sky.

Rogers saw compatriot Porte and some of his Sky squad at the camp in Tenerife.

“We chatted with him and Nico Roche. They’re people I’ve known for a long time so of course we all chat. When it comes to the race we all have to do our job,” he said.

“Richie has been riding very well for a long time. I’m sure he’s still developing as a rider, he’s still creating his character and it looks like he’s stumbled onto something very powerful at the moment in the sense he’s found that perfect balance between training and racing.

“As a team we’re going on the experience that Richie will be in his best shape of the year, or the best shape that we’ve seen from him at the Giro, so that’s what we’re counting on. It will be a tough race - it really will be. I don’t know which way it’s going to go, I wish I did but I don’t.”

Tinkoff-Saxo has made headlines more for a management overhaul than its results this season.

Rogers is an influential identity across the entire team landscape and is confident the restructure that notably saw Bjarne Riis leave ‘by mutual agreement’ in March will not negatively impact on race performance.

“Bjarne is almost like the grandfather of the team but now the staff, the management and also the riders have to step up and say, ‘alright, you know, we’re going to keep going on.’ Everything comes to an end eventually and we all have to make our decisions and move forward,” he said.

“The team is very rich in culture and Bjarne implemented a majority of that. But as he said, when he was leaving the team, he’s sure we can achieve our goals, and I’m sure we can.”

Rogers has been an integral part of hugely successful Grand Tour teams for more than a decade.

He was a steadfast road captain for British sprinter Mark Cavendish at Highroad and helped steer Bradley Wiggins to an historic maillot jaune at the 2012 Tour de France.

The former time trial world champion has substituted racing for almost three months of full-time training this season to prepare for not only the Giro but a Tour de France title berth again with Contador in July. Sophie Smith spoke to the relaxed road captain before he left for a haircut and the Grande Partenza.

Giro d'Italia broadcast details
SBS will broadcast every stage of the Giro d'Italia live. When possible, we will also live stream the race online here at Cycling Central before the television broadcast begins. In addition to morning highlights online, there will be highlights every day at 6pm on SBS 2.

Cycling Central: Hi Mick, how was Tenerife with Contador and company?

Michael Rogers: Three weeks up there is a long time. I’m not sure if you’re aware of what’s up in Tenerife, if you’ve ever been there, but it’s literally a hotel at 2200m and it’s a national park so it’s the only building within 20km. If you’re not riding your bike you’re lying on your bed recovering.

That’s exactly what we need to do, especially me. Trying to balance training and performance and the family it’s always hard for me to recover at home. I have to kind of get out and put some distance in between myself and my family. To really get the most out of training it’s what you have to do.

CC: You’re talking about quite an intense focus.

MR: Very intense. It was a fantastic camp because having so much time up there, and there is no real internet, we spent a lot of time speaking about the Giro and without any particular structure we

went through more or less every stage. You improve your relationship when you spend time together.

The numbers we were winning with in races two or three years ago is placing you fifth or fourth now. It was quite amazing for me to see the dedication of Alberto in all areas, not only his training but his diet and just how strict he was in those three weeks.

CC: Is that spending time together important when it comes to Grand Tour racing?

MR: I think it’s important because you need to be able to learn how to read people - and within your own team I’m talking about. I’ve known Alberto for years now and there are little nuances that you pick up about him. I can see in his pedal stroke or in the way that he’s acting in the bunch what his thought process is and we can adjust accordingly.

CC: You’ve substituted a lot of racing for training this season. Can you talk me through that?

MR: Through my suspension (for clenbuterol between 2013-2014 that was overturned) I learnt who I was as an athlete and my ability to be able to train constantly. I’m not the person that needs to race a traditional cycling season where you are in and out of races. I need to manage my ability and condition to ride at the important races relatively fresh and I can only do that through training.

Coaching has come a long way in the last couple of years too but there’s now software that has algorithms that will more or less tell you exactly what you need to do to achieve your best condition

CC: Are you happy with your season to date?

MR: I am. I went to Catalunya a couple of months back and caught a fever after two or three days so things didn’t go perfectly there. I had to really buckle down again with the training and getting that right quality. I feel I’m at a good place now for what I need to do. I’d love to go on search of stages like I did last year but it’s a completely different race this year with Alberto. There probably won’t be those opportunities to go into the breaks. First and foremost we’re there to go for the overall win and stages are a possibility. We’ll certainly go for them.

CC: Have you changed your approach to period between the Giro and Tour with the Grand Tour double in mind?

MR: It’ll be a very different outcome compared to last year. I came out of the Giro relatively ‘fresh’ last year because I was able to go in the gruppetto one day, go for a stage the next and then have a day off, cruise along, so I was picking my days. This year if everything goes to plan we won’t be picking our days whatsoever, we’re going to be racing every day.

CC: Because of the way the course is designed, or the way the team wants to compete?

MR: Alberto rides very aggressively and rides predominately in the front 10-15 of the group the whole day so there’s a lot of energy that will go merely to support him up until we cross the finish line. Those opportunities to sit up and save some energy will be very limited.

That’s the general idea of the team right now is this will be a big fight and we’re going to be tired every day. I think I can safely say I’ll be coming out of the Giro a lot more fatigued than last year. So what does that mean? It means the approach to the time between the Giro and the Tour will be a lot different. Sometimes you just need to walk away and have a week completely off the bike. That may mean you lose some fitness but I think with the Tour in mind - and particularly the way we’ll probably ride the Tour as well - those days off the bike in early June will pay their weight in gold in the Tour.

CC: Has the rider group felt the management changes made at the beginning and throughout the season?

MR: There have certainly been a lot of changes, more so coaching changes. The team has implemented a lot more kind of sports science to back up experience. To back that up with proven methods is one thing but actually implementing those is a completely different challenge. It’s been a little bit of a winding road for the team but we’re getting there. Ultimately I believe that’s the way the sport will move and any team that doesn’t I think implement those changes will be left out in the cold in the next five years.

CC: Fifteen years as a pro, do you still get nervous before a Grand Tour?

MR: I really do love what I do but I still get nervous. I think that’s an essential part of racing, or doing it in the way that I do.

We have a good team. If I’m having a bad day in a mountain stage there are two guys there that can take up my role and you wouldn’t even see a difference. We’ve got a very robust team and all we can hope for is that things go right.