Canberra's Michael Rogers has left Team Sky. Photo: Getty Images
AUSTRALIAN champion Michael Rogers has abandoned the world’s best road cycling team - and the man he helped to win a Tour de France, Bradley Wiggins - to join a rival camp led by Alberto Contador.
A Sky boss confirmed the major move to Fairfax Media on Friday night and indicated that while Rogers had been outstanding for the team in 2012, his decision to quit was not entirely surprising.
Rogers, 32, will race his 13th season in the professional ranks with Danish team Saxo-Tinkoff.
Though he played a pivotal role in assisting Wiggins to an historic Tour de France triumph in July, there had with murmurings that Rogers was not entirely content with the British outfit he joined in 2011. After battling various health problems over a decorated career, the three-time world champion finished the season ranked 17th in the World Tour rankings following victory at the Bayern Rundfahrt, second place at the Critérium du Dauphiné and fourth overall at Tour Down Under.
Saxo-Tinkoff did not respond to questions from Fairfax Media about Rogers and, as of Friday evening, the rider had not changed the short biography on his Twitter page that reads: ‘‘Proud Dad, Pro Cyclist with Team Sky, 5 x World Champ, 4 x Olympic Games, too many TdF’s.’’
Having achieved a major highlight with Team Sky in France this July, it seems Rogers has judged that Saxo-Tinkoff - with dual Tour de France winner Contador at the helm - is the team that can offer him more opportunities.
Wiggins has announced that his main focus in 2013 is the Giro d’Italia, which means Sky is likely to build its Tour de France campaign around 27-year-old Chris Froome who placed third this year. A veteran of the peloton, Rogers shapes as an ideal candidate to support the controversial Contador, and towards the end of his career the Australian will be handsomely rewarded financially for his services.
After representing Australia at a fourth Olympics this year, Rogers was awarded a bronze medal retrospectively for the time trial at the 2004 Athens Games. Rogers was elevated to a podium finish eight years after the fact following the doping admissions of American gold medallist Tyler Hamilton last year.
Rogers has regularly raced at home in January at the road national championships and Tour Down Under, but it is not known yet whether he will contest either event next year.
Implicated in the US-Anti-Doping Agency report that ruined Lance Armstrong, Rogers admitted to Fairfax Media in October that his decision to consult banned Italian doctor Michele Ferrari was a mistake that may have ‘‘tainted’’ his reputation.
Though Rogers defended himself as a rider who has never used performance-enhancing drugs, the Australian was named in testimony and evidence in USADA’s investigation into Armstrong because he consulted Ferarri in 2005 and 2006.
Team Sky, which Rogers joined in 2011, responded to the Armstrong scandal by announcing a ‘‘zero-tolerance’’ anti-doping policy that mandates any coach or rider who has used performance-enhancing drugs must leave the British outfit. Sky has since lost two managers, Steven De Jongh and Bobby Julich, due to the policy after both confessed to doping. Another Sky coaching chief, Sean Yates, has also left the team but cited health reasons.