Michael Rogers revels in the thrill of winning

ZONCOLAN: With a stage win in the Giro d’Italia already his, Australian Michael Rogers could easily have ridden to the finish in Trieste on Sunday believing that his return to grand tour racing from a provisional doping ban had been mission accomplished.

But after claiming his second win for the 3449km race in Saturday’s 20th stage – 167km from Maniago to Monte Zoncolan in the Dolomites – Rogers (Tinkoff-Saxo), who was recently cleared by the Union Cycliste Internationale after testing positive for clenbuterol at the Japan Cup last October, explained how he could draw more from himself at the end of what has been a brutal Giro.

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Over the last three weeks, Rogers, 34, who won stage 11 to Savona in a late solo attack, has also ridden superbly to help his Polish teammate Rafal Majka ride into sixth place overall in the Giro that will end on Sunday.

“I enjoy the working part of it,” a beaming Rogers said after his victory.

“With the experience I have, I enjoyed teaching a team that is full of energy and a team I have found here.

“But at the end of the day, the thrill is still winning.”

Rogers, from Canberra, also cited the “life lesson” that his five months out from racing due to his clenbuterol case had provided.

“I learned that it’s what you create and give. It’s not what you have physically,” Rogers said.

“I saw opportunities in this race and I took advantage of them; whereas before maybe I wasn’t as hungry.”

On Saturday, Rogers and Francesco Italian Bongiorno (Bardiani-CSF) were leading the stage on final kilometres of the 167km race that ended with the 10km climb up Monte Zoncolan that has an average gradient of 14.9 per cent with a maximum of 22 per cent.

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The pair, the remnants of an initial 19-rider breakaway that formed early in the stage, appeared set for a head-to-head battle on the final climb when a fan pushed Bongiorno into Rogers, forcing the Italian to put his foot down to avoid crashing.

With Rogers having accelerated just as the incident happened with 2.9km to go, he had no idea of what happened – and didn’t know until after seeing a replay later.

But after Rogers rode away, he too found himself having to ideal with unruly fans; and while not impaired as Bongiorno was, he was left to shout and swipe them away.

“It was a bit of a problem with some of the fans up there on the mountain all day drinking the local drop or something …” said Rogers.

“One spectator hit my handlebars a couple of times and I asked him to move and kept on hitting them and force was required.

“They have to give us a little bit of room. We can’t ride through gaps that don’t exist.”

Despite the bedlam, Rogers maintained his focus and survived racing through the gauntlet of fans, yet never believing the win was his until the final turn to the finish.

Without getting any time gaps between him and those chasing, Rogers drew on his time trialling prowess that led him to win three world titles in the discipline.

“I just time trialled to the top,” Rogers said.

“It is the first time I have been up Zoncolan, so I didn’t really know it very well. I tried to give it everything I could.”

Nearing the finish, Rogers found just enough energy to kiss the wedding ring on his left hand twice in dedication to his Italian wife Alessia and three daughters, and his family in Canberra and then swing his right arm in celebration before crossing the line.

In his wake came second placed Italian Franco Pellizotti (Androni Giocattoli) at 38 seconds, then Bongiorno in third at 49 seconds after being passed by Pellizotti.

At 4 mins 45secs and in 17th place came overall race leader Colombian Nairo Quintana (Movistar), fellow Colombian Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) in 18th and Italian Fabian Aru (Astana) in 22nd place – all at the same time.

For Quintana, the result virtually assured him overall victory – barring disaster.

With Sunday’s last and 21st stage, 172km from Gemona del Friuli to Trieste, being flat, it is likely to end in a bunch sprint with everyone finishing at the same time.

Going into Sunday’s final stage, Quintana lead was 3mins 7secs over Uran and 4mins and 4secs on Aru.

Meanwhile, Australian Cadel Evans (BMC) was in eighth place overall at 12mins flat after he dropped a place with his 33rd place on the stage at 7mins 20secs.

Rupert Guinness has been covering the Giro d’Italia as a guest of Eurosport. Eurosport have been covering every stage live, up to an including Sunday’s final and 21st, Gemona del Friuli to Trieste – 172km – from 10.30pm on Eurosport Channel 511, Foxtel.*Times are subject to change

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