Jack Bauer knows the dangers of racing. Just like any veteran pro, he’s been on both ends of the pain spectrum inside the peloton.
So what’s his take on new rules that reduce the size of the peloton for 2018? The Kiwi all-rounder said it’s unlikely it will make the treacherous bunch any safer, at least at the sharp end of the action.
“In terms of safety, I don’t think it will make a difference at all,” Bauer said. “I cannot see it being any safer. We take some crazy risks these days, and that will remain the same.”
One rationale behind the controversial decision to reduce roster sizes is rider safety. Bauer doesn’t buy into the idea that a smaller peloton means a safer race. Instead, he said the only thing that will change is that the peloton might literally be shorter, but everyone will still be crowding at the front of the action. And that means the same dangers exist.
“The road remains the same, the conditions remain the same, and the mentality of the riders remain the same. The group will be shorter, but it will be the same width,” he said at the Tour Down Under. “Maybe the group will be a little shorter, but the road remains just as wide.”
There’s also been speculation about how the roster reductions might shake up the race dynamics. What about the one-day classics? Those races also see a reduction for 2018, from eight starters to seven. That’s where the Mitchelton-Scott rider sees the greater impact of the new rule.
“In terms of having the ability to control a big, one-day race, one less rider will be a big difference,” said Bauer, who nearly won a Tour stage.
“No one’s ever raced with seven before,” he said. “It’s balls to the walls in the monuments. You always notice when a man is gone through a crash or for whatever reason.”
Another twist caused by the reduction will be added pressure to make roster selection for the major races. With one fewer spot up for grabs, riders will be fighting even harder to be selected for the grand tours and monuments.
Bauer, 32, saw how intense that fight can be when he raced last year with Quick-Step. The Belgian team lives and dies on the spring classics, so there’s a big fight just to be named to the big races like Roubaix and Flanders.
In his move to Mitchelton-Scott for 2018, Bauer already expects to be at the biggest dates in the spring calendar.
“Going from eight to seven does tighten the belt a little bit when it comes to selection,” he said. “We have a great roster with the one-days, with [Matteo] Trentin coming across, [Luke] Durbridge and [Mat] Hayman. I am really looking forward to riding with those guys. It’s a different dynamic here, but with a high-performance mindset.”
Bauer’s other main task this season is to integrate into the lead-out train for budding sprinter Caleb Ewan. The young Aussie will be making his Tour de France debut this year, and Bauer hopes to be there, along with other key riders such as Luka Mezgec and Alexander Edmonson.
“I’m coming here to support a really good sprinter, and I’ve really enjoyed it,” he said. “I am just following the flow and enjoying the role.”
And what about that infamous Kiwi-Aussie rivalry? Isn’t he a bit of a turncoat to race for the top Australian squad? All jokes aside, Bauer said he’s fitting right in.
“I am married to an Australian woman, so I have to say I love the Aussies, right?” he said with a laugh. “In terms of culture and mindset, it’s very easy for me to come to this team. We still have our own thing going on across the ditch, but it’s as close as possible to a home team.”