Cyclist Jack Bauer ready to power on the hills
Jack Bauer had the big crowds celebrating and cheering on the tough Mont Ventoux climb in last year's Tour de France.
Today, on a much smaller Dyers Pass climb in the national road race championships in Christchurch, he wants to make the same impact, but for different reasons.
The 2013 Tour was Bauer's first and, at the end of the longest and arguably toughest stage of the event, the 242.5km 15th stage from Givors to Mont Ventoux, Bauer showed off his mountainbiking skills and rode the final metres on his back wheel with a big smile on his face.
"Yeah, I pull them out every now and then," he said of the crowd-pleasing wheelie.
"If you're turning up about an hour-and-a-half behind Froome [eventual winner, Britain's Chris Froome], which is me, you need to pull a trick or two out of the bag to keep the crowd happy."
He won't be that far behind anyone in today's 183.7km, 12-lap road race which includes 10 trips up Dyers Pass.
The Christchurch crowd congregate at the toughest part of the climb, but shouldn't expect any theatrics from Bauer as he strives for a second national road race title after winning in 2010.
Form may not be everything today, he said.
Hometown hero Hayden Roulston won the event last year, but had support from then team-mates George Bennett and Jesse Sergent.
Bauer is on his own.
"Even two or three riders riding for the same person can have a big bearing on the race, on how the break works, who's allowed to get up the road, etcetera."
Attrition will be key, said Roulston.
"You have to have the legs to win on that course," he said. "It doesn't matter if you have a team of 10 or an army of 20, if you don't have the legs, you aren't going to win."
James Williamson from Alexandra, the only non-World Pro Tour rider to win the event on its current Christchurch course, said it comes down to the climbs.
"The key to doing well is the ability to manage repeat efforts up the climb," he said.
"Yes, you have to be able to ride the distance but the climbs are where you see [riders] dropping off."
Roulston is again one of the favourites while Nelson's Bennett showed his strength on the climb last year and is a stronger rider after a year in Europe.
Sergent and under-23 rider James Oram could also push the favourites. Michael Vink, another strong local, has been struck down by illness.
- Sunday Star Times