BAGNERES DE LUCHON France (Reuters) - Michael Rogers abandoned his dream of winning a grand tour to target more reasonable goals and his shift of ambition paid off on Tuesday when he won the 16th stage of the Tour de France.
The Australian Tinkoff-Saxo rider did some introspection during an enforced four-month layoff after failing a test for the banned anabolic agent clenbuterol for which he was later cleared of any wrongdoing.
During that time, however, Rogers, who was ninth overall on the 2006 Tour and sixth in the 2009 Giro d'Italia, changed his objectives.
"There was a lesson in life for me, I just accepted the person who I was," the 34-year-old told a news conference.
"I always dreamed of winning a grand tour. I tried for many years and all of a sudden I (realised I) should stop living someone else's life.
"I thought 'you can win stages, seven-day races'."
Rogers came back from his layoff and won the Giro d'Italia's queen stage up the intimidating Zoncolan.
On Tuesday, he was the best of a 21-man breakaway that was let off the hook by yellow jersey holder Vincenzo Nibali of Italy.
After his accelerations helped reduce the group to a handful of riders, the Australian attacked at the foot of the descent from Port de Bales, with about three kilometres remaining, and he never looked back.
"I'm certainly riding smarter at this point of my career," he added.
"I realised I have to be in it to win it. In the past, I was scared before it arrived. Now I tell myself: ‘If you try your best, the worst thing that can happen is to lose a bike race'.
"My new state of mind opens doors to many opportunities."
Rogers, however, knows that he partly owes his success to the fact that team leader Alberto Contador pulled out of the race injured following a crash.
Asked if he would have had the opportunity to go for a stage win if the Spaniard was still in the race, he said:
"Probably not. Had Alberto not crashed, I would probably not be here as a stage winner. I would have been very tired by now because of defending the yellow jersey.
"Now that I got my opportunity to win, I could be grateful to him for having abandoned the Tour, but no... I'm heartbroken."
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Tim Collings)