"I thought I had it, but then I realised in the last 50 metres that I had nothing"
Jack Bauer slumped to the ground after crossing the finish line in Nîmes, suffering more from the disappointment and despair of being caught and passed in sight of the finish and denied Tour de France glory, rather than the pain of spending 222km on the attack in search of a first ever stage victory by a rider from New Zealand.
Several of Bauer's Garmin-Sharp teammates stopped to console him in what he later described as a "meltdown" and the moment his "world came crashing down" and he tried to overcome the heart break of missing out on an important victory.
Later he spoke in detail about how the team had targeted victory and the emotions of coming so close, of believing he was about to win only to be passed on the line.
"I really gave it absolutely everything and as you could see from my meltdown at the finish line, I came away empty handed," he said.
"It's a childhood dream to win a stage of the Tour, and especially for a domestique like myself because I'm normally working for others. It's especially true for Kiwi riders. Not many of us get the chance to turn professional and not many of us get the chance to start the Tour de France."
Bauer shared the road and the effort virtually from kilometer zero with Martin Elmiger of the IAM Cycling team, and they knew they had a chance of victory when a strong crosswind sparked echelons in the peloton and then the rain slowed the chase.
"This was my first chance to be up the road and with the wind and the weather, me and Martin realised we had a chance for the win. We didn’t plan it to be just two riders but we managed it well," Bauer explained explaining his race.
"I thought I was stronger than Martin but maybe I waited too late. I faked being tired but felt I had more punch left. I waited until 400 metres to go. I thought I had it but then I realised in the last 50 metres, that I had nothing."
The highs and lows of professional cycling
Bauer became emotional when he was reminded that he could have been the first ever Kiwi rider to win a stage at the Tour de France, his thoughts turning to his family. However, life as a domestique has taught him that professional cycling has far more lows and moments of pain, than moments of success and happiness. In another cruel twist of circumstance, the jury awarded Elmiger the most combative rider prize, which is chosen before the finish of the stage.
"That's cycling for you," he said.
"Today there was a small chance for a high and we really came together as a team and decided that somebody would be in the move no matter what it took.
"I'm not going to say that our Tour hasn’t been a success because it's definitely not over yet, but a stage win would have gone a long way to rectifying what has been a difficult five days for us with the loss of Andrew and the reshuffle of our ambitions. Today was a day we wanted to gamble that a break would stay away. It was so close but so far."
"But I gave it everything. It was a dream that didn’t quite happen. But I'm sure I'll get chances again."
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