It was a Saturday night in the summer of 2009 and I was driving ‘up the Town’ to the movies.
I pulled the car over, answered the mobile and had my first chat with the man.
VeloVeritas‘s pundit in residence Viktor had spotted this New Zealand laddie who was burning up the Flanders kermis scene in the colours of Anglo/Belgian team, Kingsnorth Wheelers – Jack Bauer.
Ian Whitehead, Englishman ‘gone native’ in the Flemish Flatlands and Kingsnorth stalwart, had set the call up.
I remember Jack being a little bemused by our interest and me taking an instant liking to the young man on the other end of the phone.
He was living on the Kingsnorth farm outside Gent, a Spartan but character building set up run by Kingsnorth’s Staf Boone.
Three years, a spell at Endura Racing, a New Zealand elite road title and a Tour of Utah stage win later the young Kermis King is now a highly valued member of the Garmin team which backed Ryder Hesjedal to his brilliant and historic Giro win.
We can’t help but be proud of Jack and just a little pleased with ourselves; it was on our pages where Endura Racing’s manager Brian Smith first become aware of Jack’s raw talent.
We met Jack during the Giro, looking great and the same humble, humorous young man as he was ‘back on the farm.’
We gave him a few days to get settled back at his home in Girona, Catalonia and then rang the 27 year-old from Takaka to get the story of his first Grand Tour.
Did the Giro live up to expectation, Jack?
“Over and above, man!
“To be part of the team which won the pink jersey in my first Grand Tour – I consider myself really fortunate.
“Folks don’t really know me, or when I’m from; but I was part of that brilliant experience.
“But I have to tell you, it was a nail biting finish – Rodriguez played a blinder in that final time trial.”
Was it a big party on the Sunday night, in Milano?
“The riders and staff were all there and the Giro organisers laid on a function, too.”
Has it all sunk in, yet?
“Yeah, well, it’ll maybe take time; I’m just enjoying the memories at the moment.”
It seemed every time the TV coverage came on, there was you in your yellow Oakleys and shoes, at the front.
“I did as much as I could – I certainly hauled myself up a lot of hills!
“I found myself going up and down, good days and bad days – stage 19 was a good day and I was able to give Ryder a little more help into the climbs.”
Which was the toughest day?
“I don’t remember the stage number – but it was the day after one the Euskaltel guy won, that was my worst day by far.
[Jon Izagirre, won stage 16, Limone sul Garda to Falzes, 174 kilometres; stage 17 was from Falzes to Cortina d’Ampezzo, won by Rordriguez over 187 K].
“We were straight into the hills after 10 K and I was in trouble right away.
“I got back and had to go straight to work because a big group had gone away with no representation from Garmin except Peter Stetina.
“I was having an incredibly bad day but I had to chase with Robbie Hunter and Ramunas Navardauskas in emergency mode – we got them back but it was only 20 K into the stage and I thought it was over.
“I rode 20 or 30 K at my own tempo and managed to make contact again before the first big hill.
“I was dropped again and in the cars but eventually I ended up in the gruppetto; it was a day of chasing – psychologically very hard.
“But after that it was all about pushing through – staying strong in the mind.”
How was the Stelvio?
“I felt OK because I knew it was the last climb – the scenery was great!
“I was able to ride into the Mortirolo and help position Ryder so as he could do his thing – and I could do my thing; which was to go backwards!”
How deep did you go in the last TT?
“I gave it everything I had.
“I felt good but that course was actually more technical than it looked – there were a lot of corners.
“Some of the bends were pretty technical and a couple of times I felt the bike slipping around under me as I carried speed through the corners.
“I saw Ryder’s effort on TV and it was pretty impressive.”
Have you recovered, yet?
“No, no, no!
“I’ve just been riding to tick over, one or two hours each day – the race is still in my system.
“I’ve been taking advice from guys in the team about what I should be doing.”
When we met you at that stage start, you were munching on a cookie.
“Like I said at the time, ‘you gotta get the carbs down you!’
“We had our own chef on the race, that makes a difference – but when it’s cold and wet you don’t feel like eating, you’re just so worn out.
“But you have to drive the food down yourself, you’re racing six or seven hours and burning up so many calories – if you don’t eat then you’ll pay for it, next day.
“I don’t worry about my weight – I don’t have scales in the house, so there’s none of that paranoia can creep in.
“You can feel what’s right for you, more or less – and besides, you start to see all the veins.”
What did you look forward to most as the race drew to a close?
“Sitting on the beach!
“A bit of time off the bike – when you’ve been on it so much, you appreciate a bit of time off it, especially when the weather is so good in Girona.”
Have the folks in Girona been making a fuss?
“A little bit, there are a lot of the Garmin guys live here and they’re all happy about the win, so we’ve been celebrating.”
“No racing in June – just do my own thing.
“July and August are about the Olympics, first and foremost – I’ll start back with Poland.
“I think the Olympic selections are in June and I’m confident that I can perform in the road race and time trial, if I get the slot.”
I just found out the other day that you were in a band . . .
“Yeah, ‘Dream Farm’ – we made real music with real instruments.
“I was the bass player, we were a pub band – I made a little bit of money from it.
“We were an originals band, we wrote our own stuff, alternative rock, I guess – folks compared us to the band, Incubus.
“It was great fun, I still keep in touch with the guys – our singer left in 2009 and that was one of the reasons I came to Europe.”
‘Dream Farm’ – that was appropriate with you ending up on the farm at Gent?
“No, no man – that was ‘Nightmare Farm!’”