PYSO, ep. 81: UCI innovation manager Michael Rogers on progress and regulation
The Lugano Charter, constructed in 1996, formed the UCI's basis for regulation of bike technology with a noble ideal: the rider, not his or her access to technology, should determine who wins a bike race. The devil, as always, is in the details.
Now, Michael "Mick" Rogers, a three-time world time trial champion, is tasked with guiding the regulation of bicycle equipment and clothing as innovation manager at the UCI.
Rogers got his start in big-time racing with Mapei in 2000. He proceeded to have a successful career with Quick-Step, T-Mobile, Team Sky and Saxo-Tinkoff before retiring in 2016. In addition to having world-class physiology, Rogers was also fascinated with the physics and mathematics at play in bike racing, whether that was in the mechanics of a long sprint leadout train, or in the interconnected variables of a fast time trial position.
At T-Mobile, which became HTC, Rogers said "we were one of the the teams to really master the leadout train. If we go back into the mid ’90s with [Marco] Cipollini and Saeco, they revolutionized the leadout train. At HTC, we took that that one step further, we started to understand some of the mathematics. We started to understand that when we were riding on the front, with two or three kilometers to go, we're at 60 plus K an hour — the amount of energy that the riders behind us would would need to come up beside Mark Cavendish was going to have a massive effect on the actual sprint."
Rogers' real-world studying later included time racing at Team Sky, a team famous for its analysis and methodical racing tactics. Rogers talks about how the team could be so effective when riding in coordination.
"It just kind of came down to, we knew what we were good at as riders," Rogers said of being able to reel in breakaways and attacking riders with confidence. "Simple math — when we were riding at our threshold, the power values and very high power to weight ratios. We knew that anyone riding out over that threshold, to be able to open up a large enough gap, the amount of energy required to put in is almost for most people unbearable. When you're attacking on some of these climbs, you might have to ride at 600 650 watts for for 30 to 40 seconds. And there's only a handful of guys that can withstand that kind of intensity for anything longer than a minute. So it's simple math, they're going to come back."
Now at the UCI, Rogers and his coworkers are tasked with keeping up to speed with a sport that is changing rapidly.
"We are aware that cycling must progress. There must be evolution," Rogers said.
How that looks, and how a level playing field can be enforces among teams and nations with varying levels of financial ability, will be an ongoing challenge.
Tune in to this episode of Put Your Socks On to hear Rogers' thoughts on the challenges and the excitement of regulating bike racing heading into a new world of cycling.