21 July, 2014
Stage 15 : Tallard - Nîmes, 222km
Kristoff crushes Bauer's dream.
Kiwi Jack Bauer who with Swiss Martin Elmiger spent 220km out in front saw glory cruelly snatched from him with less than 50m to go thanks to Alexander Kristoff and a charging peloton.
Bauer (Garmin-Sharp) and Elmiger (IAM Cycling) had a lead of 14 seconds as they passed under the kilometre kite. In theory enough to hold on but in teh closing metres despite Bauer going all out the power of the sprint trains proved too much and with near perfect but cruel timing Bauer was overhauled within spitting distance of the finish line paint work. It was no wonder then that the Kiwi was overcome with emotion .
Speaking to the cameras after the race Bauer said, "It's a childhood fantasy to win a stage of the Tour for any cyclist, and especially for a Kiwi cyclist," Bauer said after calming down and getting cleaned up. "Not many of us get the chance to start the Tour de France. I really gave it absolutely everything, and as you can see from my meltdown at the finish line, I was pretty disappointed to come away empty handed.
"We really came together as a team and decided this morning that one of us would be in the move no matter what it took. I hadn't planned on it being a two-man move. Me and Martin managed it pretty well between ourselves. I think we both had decent legs in the finale, I felt I had the upper hand in the last 20km. I just waited to pounce. Maybe I waited a little too late."
Elmiger and Bauer, a long day in the wind
Martin Elmiger was the first attacker of the day, right after the flag with Jack Bauer (Garmin-Sharp) quickly bridging over. The duo were given a long rope on a day that was effectively a transition stage and pulled out a maximum advantage of 8.50 at km 26. Three teams took control of the peloton: Giant-Shimano, Lotto-Belisol and Katusha, representing sprint winners Marcel Kittel, André Greipel and Alexander Kristoff respectively. The pair upfront maintained a lead of around six minutes until the Omega Pharma-Quick Step team put the hammer down with 70km to go, thunderstorms threatening and eventually arriving with the race in sight of Cavaillon.
No luck for echelon makers
Successively, AG2R-La Mondiale and BMC also tried to create echelons. None of them succeeded. At the intermediate sprint of La Galina, with 46.5km to go, the deficit of the peloton was reduced to 1.30. Rain and wind led the GC contenders to ride safely and avoid potential hiccups. Despite the pouring rain, sprinters’ teams were back in action with 30km to go after passing the Rhône river between Tarascon and Beaucaire when the gap was back over two minutes.
Kristoff surges in extremis
The question as to whther the peloton would catch Bauer and Elminger remianed moot even as the pair entered the final kilometre. The chase was scrappy allowing Michal Kwiatkowski, Tony Martin and Jan Bakelants to make attacks.
Jack Bauer was a tableau of emotions - optimism, passing through hope before turning into despair, for waht might have been, even what should have been. Cycling is a cruel sport, and Bauer wil take no comfort from the fact he held off the combined might of a hundred riders for as long as he humanly could.
To make things worse officlals gave Elminger the combativity award despite the Swiss having noticably given up the fight in the last 100m.