Every year at the Tour de France there is a story of a rider who continues racing despite an injury, dumbfounding the rest of the watching world who cannot comprehend why they persist despite the pain.
Last year it was Simon Clarke riding 17 stages with a broken back, and this year it could well be Jack Bauer who crashed hard into the back of a UAE-Team Emirates car after an hour's racing on stage 18, bouncing off the vehicle and landing hard onto the tarmac.
The BikeExchange-Jayco rider was trying to rejoin the back of the peloton when a narrowing of the road meant that he had no space to avoid a collision between a motorbike and the car, thus forcing him to crash. He was able to remount his bike and complete the stage, sporting only a few cuts at the finish.
Remarkably, it was the second time in a few days that the New Zealander had hit a car, and he said that his experience of doing so impacted his decision to purposefully ride into the back of the UAE vehicle, an accident that was beamed live on TV and resulted in the 37-year-old screaming his unhappiness at the motorcyclist in the immediacy of the event.
Riding his seventh Tour, Bauer explained to Cycling Weekly afterwards: "We [he and Team DSM rider Nils Eekhoff who crashed in front of the UAE car] could see it happening: the cars and motorbikes had stopped, and there was not enough space.
"But it was such a steep ramp that the brakes didn’t help much so it was either head off to the left and hit a building or maintain trajectory and hit the UAE car.
"I hit the Shimano car a couple of days ago and I know how soft the panels of a car are compared to either a road or a building. That’s actually not a joke.
"The back light exploded, the back panel of the car took a bit of a dint, too.
"It was such a ramp. I tried to lose some speed but immediately the back wheel just skidded. When the descent is too steep, brakes aren’t much use. We are running road bike tyres after all, there’s not much rubber on the road, so I opted for the car. I have a little bit of skin off my elbow, that’s it."
One of Dylan Groenewegen's domestiques, a pragmatic Bauer refused to blame the motorcyclist or the driver of the UAE car for the incident, explaining that accidents like that rarely happen.
"I don’t like to give away free speed," he continued. "I like to shoot gaps when I make breakaways, not because I have a bigger engine but because I can come with speed, I can follow wheels, and what happened today was probably a result of that.
"You are always right on the limit of being either on your bike, on the road or in the back of a car. Normally things work out well; the drivers and other bike riders are good and things flow. We merge and it’s more or less like flowing water, but every now and again, like today for Nils and I, there’s something stationery in our path."
Bauer confessed that he had used some "unsavoury" language at the time, adding, "When someone parks their car or parks their motorbike right in front of you and you’re doing 60kmh coming downhill, you prefer that they didn’t do that.
"But it’s the same as a couple of days ago: I get that the Shimano car is trying to follow yellow, and I get that cars and bikes are all trying to share the same patch of road, and I understand that when there’s a pinch point, like today on a steep descent, the car couldn’t go anywhere neither. The car has to stop, I have to stop, but my tyres are that small so I can’t.
"Maybe a more experienced person would have backed out. You are always right on the limit of being on or off the bike. I’m not pleased with being on the ground twice in four days but apparently that’s the Tour de France for me."
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