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#PelotonShorts: Rogers on Monte Zoncolan

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Prior to the holiday break, we made career reviews of just-retired stars Fabian Cancellara and Joaquim “Purito” Rodríguez. To begin a new year, we look at others who won’t be racing in 2007—starting with Australian Michael Rogers, who ended his career at age 36 due to a congenital heart problem.

John Wilcockson / Yuzuru Sunada

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When Rogers won the penultimate stage of the 2014 Giro d’Italia (this image) atop the mighty Monte Zoncolan (average grade 12.5 percent for 8.4 kilometers), fans were shocked. Even though he’d been part of an early breakaway, he was the only one left at the finish, having left 15 men in his wake including climbers Franco Pellizotti and Nicolas Roche. What race followers had likely forgotten is that when Rogers began his 16-year-long stint as a pro cyclist he was considered as likely a grand tour contender as compatriot Cadel Evans—who raced on the same Mapei team in 2002 and helped Rogers win that year’s Tour Down Under.

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When Rogers, at age 23, joined the Quick-Step team in 2003, he won the Tour of Belgium, Tour of Germany and Route du Sud before tackling his first Tour de France—and on his very first Tour mountain stage, he placed fourth after helping teammate Richard Virenque make the move that won him the stage. Rogers took the first of his three consecutive world time trial championships in 2003 (after David Millar was DQ’d for doping) and, in 2004, he took an eventual Olympic TT bronze medal.

His stage-race credentials still looked strong in 2005. He was fourth at the Volta a Catalunya, and only lost a mountainous edition of the Tour of Switzerland on the final day—placing second, 22 seconds behind Spanish climber Aitor Gonzales.

Rogers transferred to the German team T-Mobile in 2006 and had his best Tour yet, placing ninth after working for teammate Andreas Klöden, the runner-up. Rogers reached a career watershed in 2007. After taking second at the Volta a Catalunya, he was his team’s leader at the Tour, and on the major climbing stage in the Alps he was in the virtual race lead, six minutes clear, when he crashed and had to quit with a dislocated shoulder.

In the nine years since, Rogers became an elite support rider at the HTC, Sky and Tinkoff teams, helping Chris Froome and Alberto Contador in their grand tour victories, though still managing to take wins at the 2010 Tour of California and his first stage wins at the Giro and Tour in 2014.