Bauer steps off the bike after over a decade on professional UCI WorldTour

Road, Track & Cyclocross
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One of the most respected and popular riders in the World Tour peloton, kiwi Jack Bauer has officially called time on his lengthy professional career.

The 38-year-old had hoped to continue for a final season, but has now confirmed his retirement from the sport.

Bauer enjoyed 14 years as a professional, 11 years on the World Tour, highlighted with a top-10 in the road race at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi and the 2012 London Olympic Games; a silver medal in the road race at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow behind Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas; and victories including two National road titles, the Japan Cup in 2013 and the Prologue at the Herald Sun Tour in 2014.

He is perhaps most remembered for his remarkable performance in the Tour de France 10 years ago, when he broke away with one other rider on the 15th stage, staying clear for 220kms. Just when the win was likely, the peloton rushed home to catch the kiwi within a few metres of the line.

Bauer, brought up in Golden Bay, was a prominent mountain biker who completed a PE Degree at Otago University before working in the gym industry and spending a year on the bike as a cycle courier in Wellington.

It was suggested that to realise his ability on the bike, he would need to gain experience in Europe. Without background or help, he spent time in amateur racing in Belgium in 2009 before picking up a contract with UK-based Endura Racing. He returned home in 2010 to win the national road championship in Christchurch, outlasting the likes of leading professionals Julian Dean and Hayden Roulston.

“The guy I was staying with in Gent had a connection to Alan Peiper, a highly respected ex professional and sports director with High Road. He arranged to get me in a lab with one of their sports scientists. A few weeks earlier I had left a cycle courier job in Wellington, heading to Europe with the back pack and a bike.”

The test went well but the advice was to get some experience, and through Peiper he ended up with the British team for two years.

Two years later at the Tour of Britain, Bauer met Peiper, who was moving to the Garmin team. One rider he had signed had missed a third whereabouts filing - essentially resulting in him receiving a drug control violation and voiding his new contract at Garmin.

“I was having a good week at the Tour of Britain, when Peiper rolled down the window of his car during the race, and said there was an opening in Garmin. Crazy how things turn out sometimes.

“I grabbed the opportunity with both hands. Things went well straight away with a good ride in the Tour Downunder, and got I got a start at the Giro where we had an overall win with Ryder Hesjedal. That put me on the map, and got me a look-in with Cycling New Zealand for the London Games, somehow getting the ride over Roly (Roulston) and JD (Julian Dean).

“I went to support Greg Henderson, but he had issues in the race and withdrew, leaving me with the opportunity to ride for myself. I managed to grab 10th place after slipping into the big break of the day.”

It was a meteoric rise to the World Tour for the kiwi including his first Grand Tour at the Giro D’Italia in 2012 and the Tour de France for the next three years. This included his first Grand Tour victory in the Team Time Trial at the Giro in 2012, but on the downside, breaking his femur in a crash in the 2015 Tour de France.

With the Garmin team moving through uncertain times, Bauer moved to Belgium-based Quick Step Floors, before being approached by Shayne Bannon to join the Australian-based World Tour team Orica Scott, which became Mitchelton Scott. Bauer would remain there until the end of 2022 when the team made significant changes away from its largely Australasian-based enterprise.

“Things have changed. Teams do not necessarily value age or experience anymore, and as time passes and you lose that punch, that’s really the main thing you can offer,” said Bauer.

“What counts more and more these days is pure performance. With the rise of Strava, ride sharing and the online world making data ever more available and public, everyone knows performances, outputs, and what you are capable of - both pros and amateurs alike.

“A nose for racing, the ability to read a race and bring other aspects to a team is less and less valued. You need to be able to finish it off, and these days everyone is strong.

“The level is incredibly high and very consistent,  both across the board and throughout the season. You need to be firing on all cylinders from January through October.

“I had no idea about watts, threshold, peak power, anything of that nature. I got my ride on potential, work ethic and word of mouth, all in my mid-20s.

“Today though, physiology is what determines selection. To be noticed and stand out from the rest, you need to be a proper, gifted and young athlete. Teens who can destroy the seasoned pros are becoming more and more common.”

Bauer said his lengthy career in the sport was both a surprise and a challenge.

“I never expected to last 10-plus years on the World Tour, nor past my early 30s. I took it a year at a time, working out life overseas and what I was capable of on the bike.

“It can be a lonely existence over the other side of the globe, but life for me improved significantly when I met my wife and we started a family. It started to become more of a place to put down roots. We made a fantastic lifestyle that we still enjoy today.”

Bauer said that he has been privileged and surprised with his career.

“I am thankful for the opportunities I was given and the doors that were opened for me, and would like to think I was a committed professional who gave it everything I had and was blessed with a career of some years.”

Bauer would like to stay involved in the sport, especially in a role where his considerable experience and direction would benefit.

“I am not sure what that might look like now, but I am an instinct guy, and when doors open, I go for it. I have always done that, and that’s how my life on the bike began in the first place.

“It certainly seemed like a shot in the dark all those years ago, leaving New Zealand with no money and a growing student loan hanging over my head. To be honest, with the sport growing back home and such incredible talent coming through, I was hoping to find a role with more of a kiwi connection.

“Especially with the rise of Black Spoke over recent years, it seemed like there was momentum, and there would be options off the bike with young kiwi athletes. I am open to any opportunities that might arise, but it was disappointing to see that Blake Spoke project come to an end.”

Until then he will continue to support his wife Sarah, a former Australian cyclist, and burgeoning photographer and with their three children in Spain.

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