No gain without pain for Bauer
Golden Bay's Jack Bauer is three days into his second Tour de France, where he is battling pain and dread for the chance of a career- defining moment.
Bauer and his seven other Garmin-Sharp teammates are riding to support their race leader, American Andrew Talansky, recent winner of the Criterium Dauphine.
Just prior to action on the first day, Bauer told the Nelson Mail that having ridden the Tour once before made him more "relaxed and confident" ahead of the Grand Depart, which left Leeds early Sunday morning (NZ time).
"I have more of an idea of what I'm in for I guess," Bauer had said. "So I've been able to prepare better for it, mentally and physically."
Bauer avoided the pitfalls on the first three days to finish in the peloton, placed 164th in the world's most prestigious cycling event.
During the four-day build-up, Bauer said Leeds was a hive of cycling activity. Busy with press conferences and checking his race gear, he said last minute product releases from sponsors often meant equipment changes at the 11th hour.
He said the atmosphere had been great and the people of Leeds, treated to their first Tour start, had been behind the race "in a big way". There were record crowds present at the opening ceremony and painted bikes and banners placed all over the city.
Amid the circus of cyclists and supporters, Bauer had a chance to reflect on his ride of his life, so far.
"For myself, growing up in Parapara, and spending my early years mountain biking around the trails and roads of Golden Bay, it really is something special to look back on the journey, and to realise how far I've come to get to this point.
"Riding the Tour is definitely the pinnacle of road cycling. It's such a globally recognised event and it really puts a cyclist on the map if he manages to make an impact in the race."
He said riding in an event like the 101-year-old Grand Tour was like wheeling along a knife edge.
Across the precipice with glory on one side and agony on the other is the only way for a top cyclist to exist. "I look forward to the competition, the chance to do something special, that elusive career- defining moment," said Bauer.
"At the same time, that's what you dread most as a cyclist, the pain of competition. It's not pretty at times.
"You'll have hard days, pain, suffering, bad weather, crashes and the exhaustion of a three-week race. But at the same time, any athlete embraces that challenge. That's why we compete."
Finishing the Tour de France with the final stage from Evry to Paris and the famed flat coast down the Champs-Élysées will be a triumph for Bauer, no matter where he places. But he won't have long to enjoy the accomplishment. Bauer will be placing a premium on recovery time ahead of pulling on the silver fern for the Commonwealth Games.
"I have just a week to finish the Tour and prepare for Glasgow. I'll definitely be feeling the pinch."
Riding for New Zealand, Bauer chose not to take place in the time trial event at the Games. That decision means Bauer will have seven days of rest, as opposed to three, before careering into competition once more.
The Nelson Mail