Jack Bauer became a surprise winner in a strong Garmin-Sharp showing in the opening prologue of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour, with the American team placing four riders in the top 7. The Kiwi admits that it will be hard to keep the jersey though and is ready to support Nathan Haas and Rohan Dennis on Sunday's queen stage.
He may only spend 24 hours in the lead, but New Zealander Jack Bauer is unlikely to relinquish the yellow jersey without putting up strong resistance. In front of a large and enthusiastic city-centre twilight crowd, a Kiwi quinella surprised local hopes in the Jayco Herald Sun Tour KordaMentha prologue, with Bauer claiming the yellow jersey with victory in the 2.5 kilometre individual time-trial along the Yarra River’s edge.
The penultimate rider to leave the starting gates, 28-year-old Bauer edged out compatriot Tom Scully by 0.91 seconds for his maiden prologue victory at UCI sanctioned event. Stopping the clock at 3:00.90, Bauer’s win scores an early advantage for his Garmin-Sharp team over rival WorldTour teams Orica-GreenEDGE and Cannondale Pro Cycling.
Garmin Sharp had four of the first seven riders in the prologue, including 2011 Jayco Herald Sun Tour winner Nathan Haas (3:03.18) in fifth place overall. With such numbers in the top ten, Garmin-Sharp should be able to provide solid protection for Bauer while also providing the platform for a final day assault up Arthur’s Seat for Haas.
Pre-race favourite Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE, 3:06.29) finished five seconds behind Bauer in eleventh overall, while defending champion Calvin Watson (KordaMentha Real Estate – Team Australia, 3:16.25) finished a further 11 seconds back in 78th overall.
Bauer appeared to have surprised even himself with the result.
“We’ve just come off a strong Tour Down Under, and I’m enjoying my time in Aussie. I’ve been training pretty well and staying healthy. The whole team is here with pretty decent legs,” he said. “I didn’t really think we’d have anyone to challenge for today’s stage, but maybe it’s me.”
After watching 94 riders go before him, Bauer said he was well aware of the ride required for victory.
“It’s not your standard prologue course, it’s like a city centre crit, a final lap of a city centre crit. I like that kind of riding and I think it showed today.
“I knew I had 3:01 to beat with Scully and just had my eye on the clock approaching the finishing line.”
Scully had a nervous wait while watching the final 45 riders complete the inner-city course, but it was his countryman that surpassed the three minute 1.81 standard he’d set with the second last ride of the day.
“Tom is a pretty awesome bike rider. He’s just come off the track and off the boards, so I knew he’d be one of the men to beat today,” Bauer said. “It’s a bit of a pity knock a fellow Kiwi off the top perch, but it’s my job. It may as well be another Kiwi doing it.”
While Bauer will wear the Jayco Herald Sun Tour Leader's Yellow Jersey into Thursday’s first-stage from Geelong to Ballarat, he admits that it might be others within the Garmin-Sharp outfit that will have the legs to carry the jersey to the top of Arthur’s Seat on Sunday including 2011 champion Haas.
“It’s pretty clear who we have got on the team who can climb. Obviously the stages are fairly lumpy, especially that final on Arthurs Seat near the end of the week,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of talent in the team and some good climbers. I’ll see what I can do to hold onto the jersey early on before we hit the hills.”
Despite sitting outside the top-10 after the prologue, Bauer says reigning Australian road race and Tour Down Under champion Gerrans is still the man to beat.
“Like everybody says, he’s in the form of his life. There’s no better bike rider from this side of the world at the moment, obviously he’s the man to beat and has got a strong team around him and so do we.
“We definitely have a few cards to play.”
The Jayco Herald Sun Tour continues tomorrow with a mostly flat stage where the wind could potentially split things up a bit.
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