Pure Yellow

26 01 2011

OK I never intended this blog to be race coverage but today I have to give a shout out to a mate, James Williamson. Jimmy just took out the first stage of the Tour of Wellington, one of the biggest races in NZ and with style; escaping a very select break with fellow neo pro George Bennett and out sprinting him to be first across the line. James has had some great U23 victories in the last few years and while he is still in that category it’s awesome to see him get a geniunne big win against a star studed open field. Pure Black Racing should be pretty stoked for that one and breathing with even more relaxed confidence with their upcoming Freshman season in the States to come. Very cool buddy, bravo!

James Williamson salutes the Tour of Wellington 2011 stage 1


Jack Bauer is not a TV star – yet

13 08 2010

Rumours abound that what you are about to read will be snapped up by a national magazine and printed for purchase. The good news for all here is that in reality if that happens it wont look anything like the following. Too many words for a start, but mostly because this page doesn’t deal will a middle man. In the present (what your reading now) information is often raw unmanipulated, gramatically squewed (including new words), and probably straight up wrong. But the beauty is the conviction behind it – and no-one has sued me yet.

A couple of fateful years ago I had the perverse pleasure of riding a team time trial around Queens Park in Invercargill. The roads were closed, we had police escort in front and camera behind. It was the first stage of the Tour of Southland and the only preparation my team and I had made was to organise the formation en route the starting gate; I think we might have even lapped out once on the ride from the hotel… With the wisdom of hindsight a little more practice could have been handy. Amongst the five of us Jack Bauer was our strongest rider. None of us had realistic overall placing aspirations but still we were there to make a race of it and take advantage of any opportunities we could create.

Bluff Hill - even when you wining it hurts

Possessing a big engine able to wind up to great speed we voted Jack into first position. He was to accelerate solidly up to the first corner and peel off before my turn down the main straight followed by Josh Barley, Tim Hargreaves and Al Dempsey. All was going sweet. I pulled off my 100m in the wind and while I was imediately on the rivet  from the effort I had enough time at the back of 5 to recover before it started again. Flying past the screaming schools at the back of the course and I pulled off the front again to look and discover that Tim and Al had been dislodged! The rules stated that we had to finish with 3 and looking ahead the dread inside was that  Jack and Josh were stronger. The pressure was now on to be that last guy. Problem was Jack loves being in the wind and was driving so hard that even in the shadow I couldn’t recover. After only 3 kilometers I was staring down the barrel of 5 more kilometres of stress. Jack pulled off and Josh kept the unrelenting horror. When the wind finally (too soon) hit me uninterrupted I was shattered and imediately pulled off without contribution. Jack didn’t flinch and took up pace again only I now couldn’t hold the back wheel! This was not going according to our hasty plan. I yelled “WAIT” and then finally “OK” as soon as I could but my legs were filled acid and fused like concrete; I was falling apart. For the next lap this happened a few more times. We managed to some what stay together and while we were not exactly close to the top of the leader board we certainly were no where near the bottom. I was left humbled by two of my week long brothers, but it was Jack’s performance especially that had me wondering if he could acheive greater things.

Kingsnorth liked him and he liked Belgium

That Tour finished early for me (another story all together) but for Jack it was confirmation that maybe he should try his luck beyond NZ. Without much of a plan he packed his bags and with little savings started a make of break exploration of his ablities in hard man cycling heartland; Belgium. The next 12 months were fairytale. Riding for Kingsnorth Wheelers CC he picked up 8 wins as an amateur and was the most succesful foreign rider. He came back to NZ with a tougher body and wiser street smarts. His silver at the Club National road race was confirmation to those who’d been following yet he was still flying under the radar. At the Tour of Southland his improvement would truly come out from under the covers. Victory over Heath Blackgrove on the notorious Bluff Hill was an eye opener. His attack on a very blustery run into Winton on Day 3 to steal the yellow jersey confirmed his rivals fears. On Day 5 still in yellow he missed an important break that would ultimately cost him the overall race, but for me and many others the physical performance he put in to limit his loses that day showed just how strong he had become.

Yellow Oakely's - nice

No-one though figured the next chapter in an incredible summer. After a dozen laps of Christchurch’s National Elite championship course Jack was dropped on the final acent of Dyers Pass road. Not one to give in he battled back up to absolute favorites and Tour de France stars; Julian Dean and Hayden Roulston. With only 1 km left (of a race total 165) it came down the three of them. Undeterred, Jack launched his Belgium formed sprint and held off the big names to win the coveted NZ champions jersey. To cap it off just a week earlier he’d signed a contract with UK pro team Endura racing for the upcoming European season.

With the prospect of seeing Jack race Southland again; this time as a favourite; I caught up with him to get his take on how things have been in the UK and what he’s got going on in the build up to coming home. This is the full unedited transcript below – slang et al…

1st Bauer, 2nd Roultson, 3rd Dean - that's going straight to the pool room

This year;
So Jack after an extraordinary first year racing in Belgium (off your own bat), how has your follow up year been, now that you’ve made the pro ranks and have had (presumably) more taken care of?
It’s been different. Way more so than I would have thought. And difficult! Adapting to a different country and sussing out training and a new way of life, culture etc. It all takes it’s effect on you as an individual and therefore your performance on the bike. It’s been a year of learning really, with a lot more people influencing me on the ins and outs of how to train/go about things etc.

You knocked up a few wins this year already, are you satisfied with the way things have gone?
Not really, I had planned to go better than I have done this year. I’ve had to cope with some setbacks that really impacted my year. But at the same time I’ve had to make sure I don’t get ahead of myself and expect this rollercoaster ride to just keep on getting better and better. I’ve gotta just calm down and learn to approach competition in a professional sense – realizing that I may not be able to perform to 100% and win every time! When you ride as part of a team you need to operate in that team environment as you are there to perform a job. So that’s what I’ve been getting used to doing.

Not doing as well as he'd hoped - ah ha...

How is living and racing in England and Britain compared to the Belgium and the Continent? Preferences?

I’m not a fan of the UK! I don’t plan on coming back here (England) to race. Apart from the Tour of Britain maybe. It’s not an environment that motivates me to race and train unfortunately. Over here I actually feel more like hanging out at the local with my neighbours, pint in hand. Oh yeah, and kicking a football around! A lot of what motivates me to ride is my surroundings – the training and scenery. As well as being in a place where cycling is part of the culture. The UK doesn’t have that setup for good riding which certain parts of Europe boast. It’s just not the same.
The physical boost you gained from your first season in Europe caught a lot of people off guard, especially back in NZ, are you still making big gains in your ability?
I don’t think that can be the case so much. Last year I had a lot to prove and I also learned a lot about my own abilities and the psychology of racing in general. That is why I made such a step up in such a short time. Things just seemed to click. Physically it was huge – and I really wanted it. I was driven to succeed and improve. This year I’ve more stepped up in a mental sense – I needed to change a lot with regard to my tactics and my style on the bike.

Highlights of this season…
Seeing the Time Trial results page in the Tour of Murcia, you weren’t that far off names like Lance Armstrong, Kloden, Menchov, Wiggins… how did it feel to look down that list?

yeah it was cool. I had hoped to go well on that stage, and I put it on myself to do well because I know I‘m strong out on my own in the wind. I’ve got a big engine. But that well? It was awesome! I’m hoping that’s just the start for my time trialling abilities

Bike handling 1-O-1, Jack knows a thing or two

Has the NZ jersey brought you much attention?
For one thing, in France it’s made it way easier to know when I’m getting called up to the start grid
Your Team Endura Racing is reported often as a feeder squad for ProTour Team Sky. What ties do you share with those guys and is there a possibly of riding for them in the future? Any interest from else were?
That isn’t the case. Endura is completely removed – and is in face a Scottish cycle clothing company. However, there are guys in Endura who have mates riding in Sky, so those sort of ties are there. Also the management of Sky is obviously the same management who run the British Cycling federation. Many of my team mates have been involved in the BC programme in the past so they have the contacts inside the management as well. Getting a ride in a pro outfit like the Sky team is another story though. For someone like myself, I am a newcomer to the sport, and as such I need results and consistent performances to my name before I can move on to a pro team.

Your coming back to race the Tour of Southland, this time with very strong backing. What’s the plan? Are you captain? Who do you see as the main rivals (I just read on cyclingnews that Roulston will be giving it another nudge with Calder Stewart)?
yeah Share the Road has a strong lineup alright. Brendon McDermott and Karl Murray have been putting in a lot of hours early in the year to ensure we got the goods…to come away with the goods! I owe my success last year to those two amongst a few other people. This year I would obviously love to do the team justice and come away with the win, and that is what we are building towards. However with the team as it is on paper, it’s clear to see that we have options to run with. Rivals? The guys who can climb well up Bluff. Hayden and Heath. I think it’s great that Roulston will be back, pity he wasn’t there last year to add more competition. The more riders of his calibre there the better the racing!
This year everyone will know you better, how does it feel to enter an race that you looked up to with desire when you were younger and now with genuine chance of doing well/victory?
real cool feeling bro, real cool. It’s like when you realize a big goal in your life coming true you know? It’s unreal

Smack down - Southland en route Tuatapere, where are the Aussies?

What’s makes Southland special to you?
It was the only big NZ road race that I really knew about when I was a youngster. I remember Dad calling me over to watch the news one night and seeing Yates win that days stage in the Tour. It seemed like the real deal to me as a kid, because it was on the news you know! I was into mountain biking then because we lived in the country, had lots of land to build tracks on, and a mountain bike was the only bike I had. I was always excited when cycling (be it road or whatever) made it onto the news though. I never really thought I’d be at the same level of competition one day! I wanted to make it on the mountain bike back then so all my thoughts were on that.
What does it take to win (Southland)?
More than I had last year! I’m the wrong person to be asking really, because I’ve only been close the one time. You have to ask someone who’s actually won the thing! I’ll tell you what I learned though.
First of all you need to be a good all rounder, as any tour winner is. But in Southland I think it really shows up who can climb. Not to the extent of the featherweights you see in the Tdf, but you have to be someone with the power to do well up Bluff Hill. Having a good stage result there set me up for my stab at the yellow jersey last year. Everything else just happened by itself really. The Crown Range stage requires that ability as well. If you lose time on either of those 2 decisive stages, well where are you gonna take it back?
Bike handling is pretty key with the wind and weather as it is down south, you gotta be able to hold the front wheel down and stay upright!
Just last month the UCI decided to drop the Tour of Southland from its ranking, leaving organisers free to manage the race as they see fit – ie invite who ever they like including ProTour riders to NZ amateurs. Do you have any feelings on that?
That’s fine by me. Getting the big boys in the mix just makes it that much harder and more competitive. More like the real thing!