When Steve Bauer was on the hunt for a new job he turned to one of his ex-riders, Hugo Houle, for some help and advice. The pair had worked together as team boss and rider back in 2010 and 2011 when Bauer was the manager of the Canadian Spidertech team and Houle was starting his life as a professional rider.
Now a long-standing member of the Astana team, Houle was able to point Bauer in the right direction and after talks with the team’s management Bauer was welcomed into the Kazakh squad for 2021 as a sports director.
The team also takes on a Canadian sponsor next season with Premier Tech coming on board as the second title sponsor. With Bauer, Houle, and new recruit Ben Perry joining from the Israel Cycling Academy ranks, the team has a stronger Canadian feel in 2021.
“I was interested in joining a team and I was reaching out to different teams. Some were full and some didn’t respond and then one day I approached Hugo Houle on Astana at the Tour and he said that there might be an opportunity,” Bauer told Cyclingnews from his home in Canada.
“I’ll be a sports director and it remains to be seen in terms of other roles. At BMC and CCC I was doing more administrative works at the service course, in addition to being on the road but as I’m the new guy on the block at Astana I think I’ll be at races more and looking at rider communication, and preparing them for the races, as a normal sports director does.”
While the Canadian contingent has moved from one rider to two athletes and one director, Bauer - who wore the yellow jersey at the Tour de France in 1998 and 1990 – believes that while the new sponsor has influence any new signings have been signed based on talent.
“It’s pretty cool that a Canadian company would step up like that on a WorldTour team. Without having knowledge that it’s a given, I feel that the sponsor's influence might help see more Canadians in the group but obviously, WorldTour cycling is the top of the game and anyone coming to the group would need the qualifications," he explained.
"With time I think that more Canadian athletes can mature to that level. I think it’s natural that a Canadian sponsor would have that mandate.”
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Bauer hasn’t had a chance to meet the majority of his new colleagues but with the CCC Team folding at the end of the season and his duties there virtually completed the 61-year-old has the chance to familiarize himself with the Astana – Premier Tech line up for 2021.
“I’m looking forward to getting to know them. There’s a large group of people in terms of the staff and riders that I’ll gradually get to know,” Bauer added.
“It’s a very strong team, I think, especially for stage races and one-day races that are good for climbers. Fuglsang has proven himself as a Monument winner and during the stage races, there are always options for the tougher stages with riders like the Izagirre brothers or Vlasov. He rode exceptionally well in his first Grand Tour that he completed and he’s a talent to be reckoned with. I’ll have to get to know all the guys but it’s a good, strong team.”
Bauer also acknowledged the team’s desire to balance youth and experience within next year’s roster. Several high-profile and experienced leaders have been re-signed, and although the talented Miguel Angel Lopez has moved to Movistar, younger talents such as Vlasov has enjoyed breakout seasons.
“There’s also some real balance there with young talent and experience. Young riders are so important because any team that’s not bringing in young talent is going to have difficulty in the future. You see so many young riders joining the WorldTour and having results almost right away, so you need to have good picks. That’s what it’s about.”
Bauer’s move to Astana also completes a circle as he links up with one of the riders he helped nurture as a professional a decade ago.
“Hugo has developed as an athlete in our group and when our sponsorship failed Hugo stepped up, matured, and now he’s racing even better than ever. He did a fantastic Tour this year and he was in some good final attacks that we [CCC] should have been in and I was saying at the time ‘damn he’s racing really well’."
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Today's cycling-related highlights from the Black Friday sales. For even more, view our guide to the best Black Friday bike deals where you'll find on all things cycling, including bikes, helmets, clothing and more.
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Daniel Benson is the Editor in Chief at both Cyclingnews.com and BikePerfect.com. Based in the UK, he has worked within cycling for almost 15 years, and he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he has reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he runs the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.
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