Bauer: All guns blazing for Vakoc at Tour Down Under

Kiwi relishing chance to link up with Marcel Kittel

When Tony Martin packed up shop and headed to Katusha for 2017, Quick-Step Floors manager Patrick Lefevere had the difficult job of replacing the highly decorated German.

A like-for-like signing was an unattainable impossibility, but in Jack Bauer the team have certainly signed a rider capable of closing part of the void.

Making his full WorldTour debut for his new team at the Tour Down Under, the recently crowned national time trial champion explained his role during the Australian race and for the rest of the first half of the season.

"I'm here to support the guys we have here for GC, Petr Vakoc. It would be nice if I could get up the road in a break or two but we're here more or less to support Petr Vakoc. He's been here since before the New Year, getting ready for the event, so it's all guns blazing for him," the 31-year-old told Cyclingnews.

Vakoc, 24, finished 26th in the Tour Down Under in 2016 but Quick Step have high hopes for his development and he certainly comes into this year's race without the media gaze that has focused on more established riders.

"There are many teams here with clear cut and potential winners. It's nice to fly under the radar for a guy like Petr. The team has a lot of confidence in him."

Bauer's move to the Belgium WorldTour team came after five years riding at Garmin and Cannondale. He closed out his time on the American team with a fine stage win at the Tour of Britain last year, a victory he secured just three days after signing with Lefevere's men.

"It's my first year with Quick Step floors and I aim to do my job. We've had one training camp already and that was great. I got to see who things work. I was in the Slipstream organisation for five years so it was nice to have a change and try something new.

"I signed three days prior for Quick Step floors. It was a culmination of many things that led to the win. It had taken a lot of work to get back to that point and be on the stop step of the podium and return from injury. The pressure was on but I signed before the win. I think that was a was result of me riding my bike and being relaxed."

After the Tour Down Under the Kiwi rider will link up with Marcel Kittel and try and fill part of the role last occupied by Tony Martin in the team's leadout train. Bauer has experience at riding in sprint trains and he is certainly relishing the chance to work with one of the best fastmen in the business.

"I go to Abu Dhabi as part of Kittel's leadout. That will be my role for the first part of the year. I want to try and integrate and fit in with the boys.

"Who can fill the shoes of Tony Martin. If you look at the back of my bike, they're trying to do that already with a German flag next to my name. That's the plan though. I'll go to Belgium but not for the big spring Classics but the one-day races where Kittel will race. I did leadouts earlier in my career with guys like Hunter, Farrar and Fischer. I'm looking forward to picking that up again."  

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