Jack Bauer: the team player who was part of Giro victory Hesjedal, but missed out on eternal glory himself Cycling

Jack Bauer: the team player who was part of Giro victory Hesjedal, but missed out on eternal glory himself

Jack Bauer: the team player who was part of Giro victory Hesjedal, but missed out on eternal glory himself

2023 marked the final year as a professional rider for many cyclists. The 38-year-old New Zealander's career spanned over a decade and will be remembered mainly for that one breakaway in 2014 on his way to Nîmes. IDLProCycling.com serves as a reminder of the career of a loyal rider who came a fraction away from eternal fame.

The 2015 Tour de France started in my hometown of Utrecht. The team presentation took place near Lepelenburg Park. The riders arrived here by boat after sailing a bit on the canal. I stood in the first row at the fences, accompanied by my father. Each time, the teams waited about five minutes for their turn to go to the podium. For instance, Alberto Contador and Chris Froome passed about three meters in front of me. They hardly seemed to notice the audience.

Then it was time for Cannondale, dressed in their old, poison-green jerseys. At Cannondale, one rider showed a keen interest in the audience. The rider was tall and had a hipster look. He made a lap and asked some questions. So did I. He jokingly inquired if there was a nice place in town to go out on Saturday night after the opening time trial. It was Jack Bauer, the rider who played one of the most tragic roles in the 2014 Tour de France edition.

I offered him some tips, and he took them gratefully, as if he still hadn't washed away the hangover from last year. However, at that moment, he was the best participant in the Tour de France. What rider would approach seventeen-year-old boys for tips on how to navigate a strange city? Only the real individuals among the obsessive athletes. Only the riders who take life with a grain of salt. For a moment, I had forgotten about Contador and Froome.

Late bloomer, champion of New Zealand, member of the Garmin family, and lieutenant of Hesjedal.

Jack Bauer's journey to a professional cycling career was not a typical one. Born in 1985, he didn't turn professional until the age of twenty-five with Endura Racing, a team that later merged into what is now BORA-hansgrohe. Bauer became the New Zealand road champion in 2010, defeating the experienced Julian Dean in a sprint with three. This victory, however, did not immediately herald rapid development in the professional peloton.

It wasn't until 2012 that he entered the WorldTour, joining the close-knit collective of Garmin-Sharp. The American team excelled in team time trials and formed a formidable unit with many English speakers. As a part of the team, Bauer achieved victories in the Tour of Italy and the Tour of Qatar. He himself was more of an everyday rider than a standout one, contributing to the classics team during the spring season.

Bauer also participated in the Giro d'Italia in 2012. The race unfolded surprisingly, and the Garmin team found themselves with the overall leader, Ryder Hesjedal, after fourteen stages. In a heated duel with the graceful Spaniard Joaquim Rodríguez, the Canadian secured victory in the final time trial. Hesjedal's triumph in the Giro was a resounding surprise, and Bauer, playing a crucial role as a road captain, shared in the joy of winning a major tour as part of a successful team.

Bekijk hier hoe Ryder Hesjedal de Giro van 2012 won

Tragedy in the streets of Nîmes, where Bauer falters and is overtaken by Kristoff

In 2013, Bauer made his Tour debut but had to abandon during the monster stage to Le Grand Bornand. The following year, he was selected again. Garmin seemed to have a contender for the overall victory in the team this edition. However, the American Andrew Talansky did not live up to expectations. He crashed several times and had to abandon after the 11th stage, in which he rode out in front of the support vehicle alone. Garmin had to change course, and instead of chasing a podium finish, they were now looking for stage wins. Bauer, as a domestique and road captain, was suddenly pushed forward as a stage hijacker.

Once the powder fumes from the Alps, created by the brutal violence of high-profile rider Vincenzo Nibali, had cleared and the peloton embarked on a transition stage to Nîmes, Bauer sneaked into the leading group. That day, he rode in a pairing time trial with Swiss rider Martin Elmiger of IAM Cycling. The peloton was tired, and although there were opportunities for the sprinters, there was no real organized chase. About five kilometers before the finish, Elmiger and Bauer had a three-quarter-minute lead.

Then a familiar scenario seemed to unfold in cycling—brutal, cruel, harsh, but also part of the sport. The peloton usually catches breakaway riders some distance from the finish line. Bauer held on until fifty meters before the finish line. Then the peloton thundered over him. Alexander Kristoff emerged as the strongest sprinter, and Bauer finished tenth. If the race had ended three seconds earlier, the New Zealander would have won eternal glory. Instead, tears and eternal trauma remained."

When Elmiger must give in to the acidification in his legs, Bauer pulls on for a while. But he can do no more. Usually, the breakaway rider is outflanked by the peloton some distance from the finish line. Bauer holds on until fifty meters before the finish line. Then the peloton thunders over him. Alexander Kristoff is the strongest sprinter, and Bauer finishes tenth. If the race had ended three seconds earlier, the New Zealander would have won eternal glory. Now, tears and eternal trauma remain.

Bekijk hier hoe Bauer het nét niet redde in Nîmes 

Bauer a familiar face at Quick-Step Floors and Mitchelton-Scott, but without that big victory

After his tragic loss in Nîmes, Bauer plunged back into anonymity. He continued to participate in the Tour a handful of times and almost every year completed a full Flemish spring as a domestique, riding for teams such as Quick-Step Floors and Mitchelton-Scott. Although he secured a stage win in the Tour of Britain, he consistently rode in the service of others. An opportunity like the one in Nîmes never arose again. In 2023, he completed his final year with the modest Team Q36.5 before retiring at the age of 38.

His name will forever be associated with that one escape attempt—the incredible cat-and-mouse game between brave escapees and the chasing peloton. Just short of victory. Just short of eternal fame. The tears of loss instead of the eternal smile on a Tour de France podium. Of course, he deserved more for his proven courage. But these are the images with which the New Zealander will be associated for the most part.

Now, Jack Bauer can look for a well-deserved place to finally wash away his hangover.

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