The Tour de France can be brutally unforgiving and crushingly heartbreaking.
On Sunday’s stage 15, Jack Bauer experienced this firsthand.
Bauer is from New Zealand, and he was trying to become the first Kiwi ever to win a stage in the Tour. He had a dream. He wanted to win. He went for it.
The 29-year-old, who rides for the American Garmin-Sharp team, picked what looked to be a good stage for him to go for a victory in the world’s largest annual sporting event.
He broke away with Martin Elmiger, a Swiss rider, at the start of the stage — which was 222 kilometers, or 138 miles, long. And for a large part of the day they benefited from a massive tailwind, which gave them an advantage over the chasing peloton.
They flew along at an average speed of nearly 28 mph for the five hours.
Bauer took risks, like when he went into this extreme aerodynamic tuck in hopes of gaining a few seconds:
And the duo rode well together; at one point their lead over the peloton reached nearly nine minutes.
They rode through a storm that moved over the race. There were reports of hail, thunder, and lightning, and yet the two just kept working.
Breakaways rarely succeed at the Tour, so as the kilometers ticked away, people were starting to wonder: Could these guys actually make it to the finish?
After five hours of hard-core racing, the hungry pack had the duo in its crosshairs and charged into the finish-town of Nîmes.
That’s when Bauer made his move on Elmiger.
At 400 meters to go, with the peloton surging up just behind him, Bauer sprinted, leaving Elmiger behind. He gave it everything he could.
But after racing his heart out all day, Bauer was caught in the final 25 meters and passed by the big sprinters, with Norway’s Alexander Kristoff robbing the Kiwi of glory:
It’s not the first time the Tour was brutally unforgiving on its riders, and it won’t be the last.
In last year’s Tour, Bauer crashed hard and had to quit the race:
And again this year, the Tour was not kind to Bauer.
“It’s just bitter, bitter disappointment,” Bauer told the AFP. “It’s a childhood dream to win a stage of the Tour and for a domestique, like myself. I’m normally working for others. This was my first chance to be up the road and with the chance in the wind and the weather, me and Martin realised we had a chance for the win …
“I faked to be tired but felt I had more punch left. I left it until 400 metres to go. I thought I had it but then I realised in the last 50 metres that I had nothing.”
“It was so close but so far,” Bauer said.
Bauer collapsed at the finish. Sitting on the ground, he was emotional as his teammates tried to console him.
To add insult to injury, Bauer didn’t even get the prize for the day’s Most Competitive rider. That honour went to Elmiger, who initiated the breakaway.
And, as they say, that’s bike racing. Cruel as it may be.
Watch the video recap below:
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