Continuing with our series of interviews with Olympians past and present, we talk to New Zealand’s tenth place finisher in the London road race – Jack Bauer.
Three years ago Kiwi, Bauer arrived on the Flanders scene as an up and coming ‘kermis king;’ within six months he had signed a contract with UK pro squad Endura and had beaten ProTour stars Hayden Roulston and Julian Dean to the New Zealand elite road title.
Two seasons ago saw Bauer’s best results come from UK and New Zealand races, but in the 2011 Tour of Utah the 27 year-old pulled off his biggest win to date; out witting flyers like Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Robert Forster (United Healthcare) to take stage two to Provo.
The merit of that triumph was underlined when Viviani went on to take two stage wins in the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.
This season saw Bauer an integral part of the Garmin squad which guided Ryder Hesjedal to Giro triumph.
We caught up with him at his Girona home as he prepared for the final phase of his season – which started way back at the Tour down Under.
What was the Kiwi game plan for London, Jack?
“We expected it to end in a sprint finish, given the course, so my job was to work for Greg Henderson – he’s a pretty good year in the service of Greipel.
“Julian Dean was the other possibility to ride but he had a bad injury, so Hendy was the obvious choice.”
How did you prepare for London?
“I came out of the Giro in pretty good shape; I had a two week wind down and holiday after it.
“Then I started training full-on for London.
“I did a lot of work in Girona with my coach then rode the Tour of Poland – that was great preparation.”
You made the winning split.
“There was an early move of 13 went after only ten or 25 kilometres – I went across at around 150 km.
“Nibali and Gilbert attacked to get across and I went with them; Paolini was up there too so it was apparent to me that the powerful nations weren’t going to sit and wait for a sprint.
“Hendy had told me that he wasn’t on the best of days, so I had freedom to ride for myself.”
What did you think of the course?
“It was a good course for me, Box Hill was a power climb to my mind, not so tough – but it was the distance that made the impact.
“Once you get up above 180/200 km it’s a different race – and the tempo dictates too, of course.
“As the GB team found out, it was hard for a team to make time back – that final 50 km run-in off the circuit to the finish it was just full gas at the front, there was no way we were coming back.”
“Oh man, unbelievable!
“I’ve never seen or felt such an atmosphere – the environment around the race was phenomenal.
“And there were a lot more Kiwis on the course than I expected.
“I thought it was pretty safe, but you had to watch for folks leaning out.”
What did you think of the GB tactics ?
“I think it was pretty bold to try and control the race in the way they tried – and to expect help from the other teams.
“Australia and Germany had riders in the break – and then when more went across, it was ‘all change.'”
Cav was critical of the Aussie’s race.
“You can never discount Stuey; in the final 15 km there were three riders I was watching – Stuey, Kristoff and Boom.
“For sure, Stuey’s was one of the wheels to be on.
“At the end, I took Boom’s wheel – but should have gone for Kristoff.”
“Really impressive – when him and Uran attacked from the back the hammer was down and I was cramping really bad – my legs were in real bad shape.
“I thought they’d come back; but then everyone looks at each other – as you do – and they were gone.
“The bronze was still there – but like I said, my legs weren’t the best.”
In the end were you happy with 10th ?
“I had cramp bad in the last 15 km and was in a world of hurt – so yes, I’m happy with 10th.
“It’s my first Games and I went in with a supporting role but played my cards right.”
What about the GB guys on the ‘super bikes?’
“I’ve no idea what it must be to ride a bike like that over the distance – but they certainly looked fast!”
“I wish I’d followed Kristoff’s wheel in the finale, rather than Boom’s.
“But you never really know, the Norwegians were riding well – but so were the Dutch, they were aggressive.”
Did you feel the road race in your legs in the time trial ?
“Yeah, I didn’t feel that flash in the time trial.
“I very nearly crashed 10 km into the ride; my radio packed in so I didn’t know what was coming up.
“There was a sharp right hander off a straight and nearly came off – I kinda lost focus after that.”
What did you think of the TT course ?
“It was fast, a power course with a couple of technical corners.
“The crowd was phenomenal – I didn’t think the Brits would be so supportive of cycling.”
Are the Olympics a big deal to a pro, or just another race ?
“Definitely a big deal; New Zealand can’t send a big team and you have to fight for your spot – so any opportunity to ride for New Zealand is great.
“Riding in London is one of the highlights of my career.”
Did you get much time to take the Olympics in, after your races ?
“I had three days in London and managed to see the New Zealand team qualify for the team pursuit – and the finals too, where they won the bronze.
“It was cool seeing Sam Bewley get his medal, he lives down near me in Girona.
“I couldn’t stay too long, though – I had to get back to ride the Eneco Tour.”
What’s next ?
“Hamburg, Plouay and then re-assess; I’ve been racing since the Tour Down Under.
“Normally, I’ll head home to New Zealand over the winter – I’d certainly want to be there for Christmas.”
And how has the first year in the World Tour been ?
“It’s been really good, a challenge, a lot of work and I’ve put everything into it.
“But I’m happy with how it’s gone – I’ve worked for the team and made an impact.
“And of course, it was great to be part of winning the Giro.
“I hope to ride the Worlds and I’m really looking forward to riding the world team time trial championship – but it’ll be hard to make the Garmin team for that one!”
With thanks to Jack for always having time for old friends and being totally unaffected by stardom.