New Zealand rider Jack Bauer will return to racing for the first time since the Tour de France last year, when he lines up for Cannondale Pro Cycling at the Tour of Valencia this evening. It has been eight months off the bike for Bauer, who smashed the head of his femur near the hip in a second fall at the Tour de France last July.
In fact the 30 year old crashed in every stage of the race last year until his fateful fall directly onto his hip. “My whole year got shook-up last year,” Bauer said. “The season went out the window. There was no typical end of the season, no typical month off the bike. I had surgery in late July, and since then I’ve been steadily progressing with my rehab.”
There is a sharp difference between racing and training, such as hundreds of wheels and shoulders in the same pieces of thin space. Bauer’s rehab has seen his miles on the bike done largely on his own, but he is well aware that returning to racing with a field that includes six other World Tour teams will be something completely different. “Training alone is one thing, and I’m quite happy doing that. Being back in the bunch and racing and riding on a wheel, that might take a day or two to get used to. But I feel well prepared. It’s been eight months or so since the Tour. I’ve had a big window of time to prepare myself and get ready for a comeback,” Bauer said.
After Valencia, Bauer will go to Tenerife for two weeks of altitude training camp with selected members of the Cannondale Pro Cycling team. He’s not nervous for the dip back into the peloton, but Bauer is aware of the importance of getting back on the sharp end. “I think it’s important that the team sees me racing again. That’s quite a big question mark over my head…they need to see what kind of shape I’ve gotten myself back into before we can start laying out a season as such. I need to show myself this week in Valencia that I’m back to 100 percent,” he said.
And while Bauer never thought about pulling the pin after the rough season, he does have a keen awareness of how quickly things can change. “I had a new realization of how fragile the human body can be, because it was not a horrific crash by any imagination… It was just sliding around on the road. But I have a new appreciation for how easily we can be injured,” he said.
“It’s been a long, long road looking back,” he said. “To be on my back for a couple months, then the bed just watching the body kind of disintegrate, you know? From being in the top shape for the Tour de France to where you’ve got a broken bone… you obviously put a little bit of weight back on. It was a new experience for me, a little bit difficult at times. It’s something I’ve taken a lot out of. It’s something I’ll learn a lot from, I think.”
Cannondale Pro Cycling CEO Jonathan Vaughters is delighted to have the Kiwi back. “Jack has proven to be an admirably strong and resilient person in overcoming this very serious injury. We will be happy to see him back on the road.”
So too the team’s Director Sportif and former longtime professional Charly Wegelius. “It is great to see Jack’s name back on a start sheet. It has been a long road back from his injury, but Jack has faced the task in an exemplary way. Step-by-step we hope to see Jack continue to build up to his previous level, and why not beyond?”
Bauer’s long term aim is to ride the Tour de France in July and earn a place on the New Zealand team for the Rio Olympics. But his first obstacle – the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana or Tour of Valencia – will kick off with a 16.25km individual time trial from Benicassim to Oroposa del Mar. The queen stage of the race will be 173.5km from Sagunto to Alzira, with mountainous stages in stages 2 and 4 likely to decide the overall standings.