Tour de France 2014: Jack Bauer and Martin Elmiger’s day-long break ends in despair on the line

 

with the Tour de France

It is a cliché that sport can be cruel, but just 30 metres – or seven pedal strokes – was all that separated New Zealander Jack Bauer and Swiss national champion Martin Elmiger from success after a heroic 220km breakaway in Saturday’s stage of the Tour de France.

The stage  seemed designed for a bunch sprint, with no classified climbs, just kilometre after kilometre of riding across the flatlands of southern France. So of the Tour’s 171 remaining riders after two harsh days in the Alps, Bauer and Elmiger were the only two  strong enough (and, you might add, rash enough) to chance their arm with a long-distance breakaway as soon as the stage got under way.

As the race left the Alpine foothills behind and moved westwards towards Nîmes, the advantage reached six minutes before the sprinters’ teams began to up the pace behind. Their aim, as ever, was to keep the duo’s advantage to a margin that, on paper, meant reeling them in before the finish was a formality.

Several elements combined to ensure that was not the case. The occasionally ferocious rainstorms that bucketed down on the course from time to time were one factor; an attempt by two of the top contenders’ teams, Tejay van Garderen’s BMC and Jean-Christophe Péraud’s Ag2r, to split the peloton with a mass attack mid-stage was another; last but not least, Bauer and Elmiger proved far tougher nuts to crack than the sprinters’ squads had estimated. Martin Elmiger celebrates his victory

On an endless series of roundabouts and straights leading into the suburbs of Nîmes, the peloton squeezed the pair’s lead to less than a minute. But with a strong tailwind helping the break’s speed stay at over 50kph, for Lotto-Belisol and Giant-Shimano – riding for their sprint leaders André Greipel and Marcel Kittel – the gap closed painfully slowly.

As it remained at 13 seconds with a kilometre to go, it seemed as if either Elmiger or Bauer would be rewarded for their herculean effort. Yet a moment’s hesitation as the two came within sight of the finishing line and one last-ditch increase in speed from the bunch as Russian squad Katusha finally flung their troops into the front line to try to bring back the break made a critical difference.

 

IAM Cycling’s Elmiger was first to give up. Bauer, of Garmin-Sharp, continued a few more yards, weaving slightly across the road and glancing backwards as the front tip of the peloton advanced inexorably closer. Then, some 30 metres from the line, Bauer was caught and what had felt like the stage’s pre-written script of a bunch sprint finale was re-adopted, just a handful of seconds before it was too late.

Katusha’s Alexander Kristoff, seemingly blocked in on the right-hand side of the road, darted forward to claim his second stage win of this year’s Tour by a more than a bike length.

“I do feel sorry for them,” the Norwegian Kristoff, a bronze medallist in London’s Olympic road race and winner of the Milan-San Remo Classic this spring, said later. “Of course I wanted to win, but that must have been a really hard thing for them to accept. Who’d have thought it could be so close?”

Had Bauer managed to hold on just that little bit longer, he would have become the first New Zealander to win a Tour de France stage. “We hesitated for a little too long in the last part, we started watching each other for the sprint and that was a mistake,” Elmiger said afterwards.

“Bauer was on a great day, I wasn’t feeling so good, but it was a very close thing all the same. I never expected, to be honest, that we would get so far.” Or, he might have added, so near to providing one of the most impressive upsets of this year’s cycling season.

“It’s a bitter disappointment. Winning was a childhood dream and for a domestique like myself, chances like this come very rarely,” Bauer added. “I tried to play him in the finale; I faked I wasn’t going so good, and then gave it one last shot. With 400 metres to go, I thought I had the win in the bag. And with 50 metres [left], I knew it wasn’t going to happen.”

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitm...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitm...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£13676.46 - £15864.28 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Re...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitm...

Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada
Birthplace of Arab Spring in turmoil as angry Tunisians stage massive sit-in over lack of development

They shall not be moved: jobless protesters bring Tunisia to a halt

A former North African boom town is wasting away while its unemployed citizens stick steadfastly to their sit-in
David Hasselhoff's new show 'Hoff the Record': What's it like working with a superstar?

Hanging with the Hoff

Working with David Hasselhoff on his new TV series was an education for Ella Smith
Can Dubai's Design District 'hipster village' attract the right type of goatee-wearing individualist?

Hipsters of Arabia

Can Dubai’s ‘creative village’ attract the right type of goatee-wearing individualist?
The cult of Roger Federer: What is it that inspires such obsessive devotion?

The cult of Roger Federer

What is it that inspires such obsessive devotion?
Kuala Lumpur's street food: Not a 'scene', more a way of life

Malaysian munchies

With new flights, the amazing street food of Kuala Lumpur just got more accessible
10 best festival beauty

Mud guards: 10 best festival beauty

Whether you're off to the Isle of Wight, Glastonbury or a local music event, we've found the products to help you
Unai Emery’s passion for winning and eye for a bargain keep Seville centre stage in Europe

A Different League

Unai Emery’s passion for winning and eye for a bargain keep Seville centre stage in Europe, says Pete Jenson
Amir Khan and James DeGale’s remarkable Olympic performances were just the start of an extraordinary journey - Steve Bunce

Steve Bunce on Boxing

Amir Khan and James DeGale’s remarkable Olympic performances were just the start of an extraordinary journey
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf