PALM SPRINGS, Calif. (VN) — Michael Rogers (Saxo-Tinkoff) draped himself over his top tube and faced up to a mouthful of recorders, his face reddened from the blast-furnace that was stage 2 at the Amgen Tour of California. The 2010 champion had lost time in his hunt for a second title, but was still in the running with six days of racing remaining.
When it was all finished, the Aussie sat 55 seconds back on the general classification to Janier Acevedo (Jamis-Hagens Berman), who won the day with a savage acceleration in 110-plus-degree heat, and 43 seconds in arrears of all-rounder Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing). Rogers now finds himself in fifth overall two days into his first visit back to the race since his winning ride.
Asked if he was still close enough to contend for the overall win, he didn’t take himself out of the running.
“It gets harder, you know, with the time gaps,” said Rogers. “But I’m experienced enough to know that anything can happen in stage races. And I’ll keep pushing every day.”
The stage was brutally hot, with a steep finishing climb that wrought pain upon the peloton in the final three kilometers. Rogers was able to stay close, but the duo of Acevedo and van Garderen ultimately disappeared up the road on the Tramway Road climb, which didn’t appear terribly steep on television but was an unrelenting drag strip up to the aerial tramway above Palm Springs.
“It was certainly survival of the fittest is what it was today,” Rogers said. Asked if he was ready for the rest of the GC charge, he said he was.
“Yeah, I am. There’s obviously a couple of other hard finishes,” he said. “Tejay took some good time. We have to bring it back. Anything can happen. We’ll keep trying every day.”
On Tuesday, stage 3 takes riders from Palmdale to Santa Clarita, and should be a finish for the fast men. The next real GC chance comes on Friday, in the individual time trial, which finishes with a climb steep enough that riders haven’t yet said which bikes they’ll use — time trial or standard road, or if they’ll even change bikes. A former world champion against the clock, Rogers will hope to take time out of Acevedo on Friday before the final test, the next day, up the hors categorie summit finish at Mount Diablo, which should decide the overall in the eighth edition of the race.