Procycling

BAUER AND THE GLORY

Within cycling, each nation’s pioneers stand out. They have certain things in common. Their careers are studded with ‘firsts’ for their country. More importantly, they are very influential. They inspire compatriots to follow them into what was – from the 1900s to the 1980s – a parochial sport, and they also encourage pro team managers, a conservative breed, to give a chance to riders who don’t speak Flemish, French or Italian.

The examples are pretty obvious: from Great Britain, Brian Robinson. From Australia, Phil Anderson. From Ireland, Seamus Elliott. From the USA, Greg LeMond. From Colombia, Alfonso Flórez. In some cases, you can argue for other names: Tom Simpson, Sean Kelly, Jonathan Boyer, Luis Herrera.

But from Canada, there can be no argument: the pioneer is Steve Bauer. Now 61, Bauer has an impressive list of national firsts: first Olympic road race medallist, in 1984, first world professional road medallist that same year, first Tour stage winner and highest Tour overall finisher (both in 1988, when he was fourth on GC), first classic winner, when he won Züri-Metzgete in 1989. All that said, however, his peak years in 1988 to 1990 were marked by two agonising defeats. He got tangled up with Claude Criquielion in the finishing sprint of the 1988 Worlds, denying himself a possible rainbow jersey (and also Criquielion, but we’ll get to that). And he was runner-up in the closest ever finish at Paris-Roubaix in 1990, when millimetres separated him from victory.

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