His heroics made for one of the most exciting sprint finishes in living memory, but it was hard for Jack Bauer (Garmin-Sharp) to see the bright side after he narrowly missed out on the stage win at the end of stage 15 of the Tour de France.
The Kiwi was part of a day-long breakaway with Martin Elmiger for almost all of the 222km stage from Tallard to Nimes, however was overhauled by Alexander Kristoff with just 20 metres to spare on the line, finishing tenth.
"There’s definitely no pride, just bitter biter disappointment," Bauer said after he had composed himself on the Garmin bus after the stage.
"It’s a childhood dream to win a stage of the Tour and for a person like myself, a domestique, I’m normally working in the service of others. So this is my first chance to actually be up the road."
Bauer and Swiss champion Elmiger realised their break might have a chance of succeeding when the wind turned onto their backs and the heavy rain began to fall in Provence with around 100km to race.
They were never allowed more than nine minutes, however on the slippy approach to the finish with the gap hovering at just over one minute, the sprint trains of Lotto-Belisol and Omega Pharma-Quickstep were unable to make up ground on the duo.
With the pack breathing down their necks on the final straight, Elmiger launched his move with 800m to go. Bauer jumped on the wheel, coming around with 400m remaining and the line in sight.
"I played him [Elmiger] in the finale, I faked," said Bauer. "I tried to look like I was as tired as possible when I felt like I still had one more punch, so I launched at 400m to go, and I thought it had it. I realised in the last 50m I had nothing."
Perhaps not quite nothing. After he'd picked himself up off the ground, having collapsed in a heap just after the line, Bauer was surrounded by press.
The former Endura man's last minute defeat, a perfect illustration of the cruel romance of the Tour, made him the hero of the stage.
"In the finale there I really made sure that I knew in my head that this is a once in a lifetime chance, and not to muck it up, to lay it all on the line," Bauer added. "And I did that, and it didn’t really work out.
"I really… I really gave it absolutely everything. As you could see from my meltdown at the finish I was pretty disappointed to come away empty handed.
"All of a sudden in that last kilometre I knew I had the legs on Elmiger and I thought, 'I’ve got the stage here.' When I realised that I didn’t, my world came crashing down for a minute. But that’s bike racing hey, that’s sport, you get up and you try again. And we’ll try again after the rest day.
Heartbreak for escapees Jack Bauer and Martin Elmiger as they are caught on the line
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Richard Abraham is an award-winning writer, based in New Zealand. He has reported from major sporting events including the Tour de France and Olympic Games, and is also a part-time travel guide who has delivered luxury cycle tours and events across Europe. In 2019 he was awarded Writer of the Year at the PPA Awards.
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