He found peace with a "beautiful moment", winning a breakthrough stage at the Giro d'Italia last week, but Canberra cyclist Michael Rogers has spoken of the "anger" that fuelled his successful comeback from a provisional doping ban.
Rogers proved he is on track for a pivotal ride at the Tour de France, the 34-year-old claiming his first stage victory in a grand tour with a breakaway ride to claim stage 11 of Italy's biggest race.
But in an interview with Australia's Ride magazine, published next week, Rogers has revealed his first reaction after testing positive to the banned substance Clenbuterol in October last year was "anger".
Rogers has been a staunch anti-doping campaigner during his cycling career and maintained his innocence during the five-month provisional ban until authorities accepted his assertion that he'd inadvertently eaten contaminated meat in China.
Not long back to racing, the three-time world time trial champion said he'd "craved" the sport during his provisional ban.
“I tried to handle the whole thing as a … I’d say, a learning experience," Rogers tells Ride magazine. "Because when the news first came out I was angry. I really, really was. There was a lot of anger there and I suppose, after around a week, I quickly realised that being angry wasn’t going to change anything – actually, it was just going to make it worse.
“Anger wasn’t going to help me. I was lucky to learn that quickly … ever since I was 16, you know, I’ve been living this kind of dream ... travelling all around the world, getting new bikes every second month.
"It’s an unbelievable life and all of a sudden I realised that it all, literally overnight, had just been taken away.
“I had hope that I could come back and the truth would come forward. But it took a long time and in that time – in the five months that it took to resolve – I just realised what an unbelievable life that it is. I craved it. I really did ... it feels like I really am back to the dream.”
“I was enjoying it. I won’t contest that but my body – especially from 200 to 220, for the last kilometres I was there, my body was just screaming. But you know, those are the work-outs I need to get me in shape … It was certainly nice to be back in the field and back racing.”
Rogers resurrected his career by winning the the 11th stage at the Giro, his first stage win in 12 years of riding grand tours.
He dedicated the victory to his Italian wife, Alessia, his parents and brothers watching on from Canberra.
“There’s always a silver lining in every cloud," Rogers said after the win. "It [the ban] was a tough time for me. But I knew what I’d done and I kept training every day, I didn’t miss a beat.”
Asked what had driven him to continue training, Rogers said: "Anger … I believed in myself and people closest to me always believed in me and they gave me the energy and courage to keep moving along.”
Once considered a contender for the Tour de France, Rogers is now almost certain to play a pivotal role for Saxo-Tinkoff teammate Alberto Contador at the Tour de France.
Rogers was one of Bradley Wiggins' most important allies when the Brit won the 2012 Tour de France with Sky.
Contador is a three-time winner of the Tour de France, but was stripped of his 2010 title after also testing positive to Clenbuterol. He was banned for two years.
Rogers said Contador had also been riding "angry", but had learnt to better channel his aggression.
`“I think we have a good chance [at the Tour de France]," Rogers told Ride. A very good chance actually. Albert is in really good shape.
"He’s angry. He’s hungry, but in a sense, that’s really controlled, I think. Last year he was angry too, but he didn’t have control.
"This year he took big steps in the winter to really get on top of himself in the sense that he needed a really good structure and I think he’s worked well with the team and the trainers and [team manage] Bjarne [Riis] and they really put down a solid plan. As far as I know, he’s sticking to that day by day and I think the results are definitely showing.”
Elder brother Deane, a former junior world champion, said Rogers was content to put team goals ahead of individual honours at this stage of his career.
"In his mind he's gone to a new stage in his career where it's not about him. He really enjoys helping teammates and feeling he can share his knowledge and experience," Deane said.
"It [the Tour de France] is all for Alberto. Mick's had his glory at the Giro now. He'll go to the Tour just to ensure Alberto is in good hands. Mick's an energiser in that team, he's got a great ability to rally the troops."