Michael Rogers claimed a solo stage victory in Bagnères-de-Luchon today, just three days after Polish team-mate Rafal Majka took line honours at the end of stage 14 in Risoul.
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The results not only show the firepower Contador would have had at his disposal had the Spaniard not been forced out due to injury but also provide a stark contrast to that of Team Sky, which also lost its Plan A, in defending champion Chris Froome, before the first rest day.
The battle for title honours between Froome and Contador was highly billed in the lead-up to the 101st edition of the Tour and both teams had to recalibrate after their respective losses.
Tinkoff-Saxo evidently changed its game plan completely, targeting individual stages, whilst Sky kept its goal the same, backing substitute leader Richie Porte, who dropped from second overall to out of contention in the Alps. Porte has been managing a chest infection with antibiotics throughout the race and had it not been for that, maybe the tale then and now would be different.
Sky’s head of athlete performance Tim Kerrison had no doubt regarding Porte’s shape prior to the race in which he entered not only as a right-hand man to Froome but also with podium ambitions of his own.
“Before we came to the race he was climbing better than I’ve ever seen anyone climb,” Kerrison told Cycling Weekly.
Sky is yet to make an impression on the Tour in the shape of a stage victory, which is what the British outfit will surely focus on in this third and final week.
Rogers admitted today he probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to vie for what was an emotional career first Tour stage triumph had Contador still been in the race.
“I can be grateful but I’m also very heartbroken that Alberto is not here because I think it would have been something special,” Rogers said post-race. “We would have had to fight everyday – back in the peloton!
“I would like to think I would have been really tired by now because I’d ridden so much with Alberto in the yellow jersey. I’m not going to say Alberto was going to win this race easy, obviously [race leader Vincenzo] Nibali is in the form of his life, but I think I can confidently say it would have been a great battle.
“We’re going to have to wait until next year to see that battle. I can tell you, Alberto is already thinking about next year’s race.”
Michael Rogers chose the longest stage of this year’s Tour to claim his first Tour win. Behind, there was a
Michael Rogers attributes Grand Tour success to a 'mental change', and says he's no longer afraid of failure