Flashback to the time Michael Rogers won the 2002 Tour Down Under on a spectator’s bike
The year is 2002, the new cycling season has kicked off in Australia and the first stage race is underway. The Tour Down Under was still a relatively new race in its current form, only on its 4th running in 2002. Consequently the field was made of up mainly Australians and a few European teams we still recognise today like Mapei-Quickstep, AG2R-Prevoyance and Francaise de Jeux. Australian sprinter Robbie McEwen won 4 of the 6 stages, including, surprisingly, the stage with Willunga Hill – now a Tour Down Under staple.
The then 22 year old Michael Rogers (racing for the Australian Institute of Sport here but a Mapei rider really) managed to get himself in a break of 15 (including future Tour de France winner Cadel Evans and Paris-Roubaix winner Stuart O’Grady) on Stage 2 that earned itself 8 minutes over the rest of the pack. 7 of those managed to escape to contest for the stage win with Rogers sprinting to the win ahead of the Italian pairing of Fabio Sacchi and Andrea Tafi. Sacchi held the overall lead by 1 second from Rogers after Stage 2 until Stage 5, where our story begins.
Rogers starts having issues with his bike
Michael Rogers managed to have a get together with a motorbike on this stage which resulted in his rear derailleur snapping off the frame of his Colnago C40 and into the spokes of his rear wheel. This is something I’ve managed to do on my own bike and unsurprisingly you come to a stop pretty quickly as pedalling through will destroy a wheel.
Rogers did the time-honoured pro response to a bike mechanical at a key time and threw the blue bike to the ground. With the bike on the ground, Rogers looks around and right next to him is an almost exact copy of the bike he’s just killed – it’s brown rather than Mapei blue but it’s still a Colnago C40. The whole change takes just a few seconds.
It also happens to be exactly the right frame size – 56cm – and even better, it has the right pedals on it for his shoes to fit. To see how much of a big deal this is, we saw how Chris Froome struggled on Mount Ventoux in 2016 with the replacement Mavic bike that was tiny and had different pedals.
What happened next?
After all the bike change antics, Rogers had lost around 30-40 seconds to his breakaway companions. Despite the saddle being a touch too low to begin with, he caught up with the breakaway and managed to take out the next intermediate sprint to gain 3 bonus seconds for the GC.
Nearing the end of the stage – having finally had a team car come and adjust the saddle height on the fly – the breakaway split up as they all attacked each other. Mapei teammate and Future Tour de France winner Cadel Evans won the stage, around 16 seconds ahead of a scarcely believable Michael Rogers.
Rogers had managed to gain a GC lead of 21 seconds over his fellow breakaway rider Alexandre Botcharov which he held over the final stage the next day to win the overall race.