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For Michael Rogers and teammates, Majka's stage win just the tonic for Contador's abandon

Exhausted: Ral Majka at the finish line.

Exhausted: Ral Majka at the finish line. Photo: Reuters

RISOUL: When Michael Rogers heard that Polish teammate Rafa Majka had won the second of two Alpine stages of the Tour de France on Saturday it hurt him to smile.

For the ACT rider, who finished 14th on the stage, and his Tinkoff-Saxo teammates, Majka’s win helped sooth the heartbreak of losing their Spanish leader Alberto Contador with a fractured tibia sustained in a crash in the 10th stage.

On the limit: Michael Rogers.

On the limit: Michael Rogers. Photo: Getty Images

Asked for his emotion on hearing the race announcer at the finish call Majka’s win by 24s on second placed Italian Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Rogers said: “Happiness, a smile. It was hard to smile. I was on the limit, but within [there was] certainly a smile.”

It was a great ending for Rogers and his team after getting two riders in the key 17-man breakaway – Majka and Irishman Nicolas Roche – and came close to having three in it with Rogers just being “two or three” metres shy of getting across.

The team’s overall hopes may be long gone in a Tour that Nibali continues to lead convincingly with 4m 37s on second placed Spaniard Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and 4m 50s on Frenchman Romain Bardet (Ag2r).

But as the Tour starts its third and final week, stage wins are on the agenda, said Rogers who made no secret of what joy Majka’s victory brought the team.

“We are obviously really ecstatic. It was a really gutsy ride out there by Majka to hold off the bunch coming from behind with Nibali and all the big [overall] contenders …," Rogers said.

“It was a really gutsy ride and it showed that he really has talent and that he has a big future. Its shows we have a strong team and we are all smiles absolutely …”

Rogers credited the Tinkoff-Saxo team management - headed by its Russian owner Oleg Tinkoff and manager Bjarne Riis - for not putting too much pressure on them to make up for the disappointment of losing Contador when no ‘Plan B’ existed.

“We only had ‘Plan A’. To turn around on a short time frame isn’t easy,” Rogers said.

“It took us a couple of days. We kept believing. Luckily we have some genius people in the team who didn’t pressure us.

"They empowered us. They could’ve just changed attitude straight away, but they said, ‘Guys we know it’s difficult for you. It’s difficult for everyone’.

"But they gave us time. They trusted us, empowered and Rafa repaid them today.”

Rogers said Contador has remained in regular contact with the team since leaving the Tour as he continues to undergo treatment for his knee and plan his rehabilitation.

“We have been in contact with [Alberto] on the phone and in messages,” Rogers said.

“He is giving us updates on his knee, full encouragement.

"I am sure he would’ve had a bit of pain within today watching the team ride so well. But that’s a positive pain.

“We still think about it and dream about it every day … about what Alberto could have done, but the Tour de France is a series of tests and you have to pass every day.

“And unfortunately Alberto couldn’t pass one of the tests due to a crash. That’s life.”

With a stage win for Tinkoff-Saxo's to savour, the pressure should be off the team, but Rogers says they will still try to conjure some momentum from Majka’s victory and win again.

Rogers is clearly still in exceptional form and showing no signs of fatigue from having raced in the Giro d’Italia where he won two stages.

Riis said on Saturday that the Canberran will get his own chance for a stage win.

“Absolutely,” Riis said. “Michael is a great guy for the team and helps a lot, especially with young guys like Rafa.

"He is strong and still there when there are 10 or 12 guys left. He is there which means he has the chance to also go for the victory.”

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