Canadian Cycling Magazine

Enduring Tours de France

Cycling’s greatest race is all about perseveran­ce

- by Rob Sturney

Steve Bauer’s grit in 1990 gave him his longest run in yellow. The event itself has shown its own ability to continue on, coming back even after it’s disappeare­d

This year marks the 30th anniversar­y of the most crucial breakaway of the 1990 Tour de France. Canadian Steve Bauer and Italian Claudio Chiappucci got away on the first stage. Bauer’s reward was the second stretch in the yellow jersey of his career. Chiappucci’s was his first real shot at the title. Bauer’s first spell in yellow was during the 1988 edition, which was won by Spaniard Pedro Delgado. “In ’88, I was in top shape and I was climbing super well,” Bauer says. “It was a really hot Tour de France and some of the favourites had fallen out. Laurent Fignon had stopped and Stephen Roche wasn’t there. It was an open opportunit­y to do well.” Racing for Weinmann-la Suisse, Bauer triumphed in the first official stage, wore yellow for a few hours, lost it following the afternoon team time trial, and then pulled it on again for four stages mid-race before finally finishing fourth in Paris, the greatest ever general classifica­tion result for a Canadian at the Tour. Bauer’s 1990 stint in yellow began in a similar manner. He earned it on the first part of a split

Stage 1. Instead of losing the maillot jaune later in the day, as he did in ’88, he held it for nine stages.

The circumstan­ces of Stage 1 were unusual and would play an important role in the GC battle for the next three weeks of the race. “We went immediatel­y from the gun,” Bauer says of the breakaway. “My only goal was to get the jersey, making sure I got the time bonuses along the way.” Bauer, who was on Jim Ochowicz’s 7-Eleven–hoonved team that year, escaped alongside Chiappucci, Ronan Pensec of France and Frans Maassen of the Netherland­s on a 138.5-km route at Futuroscop­e. The headband-clad Italian hadn’t become an early-1990s Grand Tour powerhouse yet – his compatriot Gianni Bugno was considered one of Greg Lemond’s main rivals – but Bauer and Pensec were too dangerous to be allowed a long leash. Pensec was Lemond’s Z-tomasso teammate, so the U.S. rider could leave the chase to the teams of the other contenders, such as Banesto. The peloton, however, was interrupte­d by a protest that featured trees dragged across the road, causing a few pursuers, including Delgado, to crash. This incident triggered indifferen­ce in the chase, so the quartet finished around 10 minutes ahead. Bauer, the best-placed rider after the opening prologue, seized the race lead.

In the afternoon’s 44.5-km team time trial, Bauer’s 7-Eleven squad only needed to worry about beating Maassen’s Buckler-colnago-decca team – an early incarnatio­n of Jumbo-visma – to keep the jersey. They accomplish­ed their goal by eight seconds. “We had a good group,” Bauer says of his American outfit, then contesting its fifth consecutiv­e Tour.

Bauer was well-supported by the likes of 1988 Giro d’italia winner Andy Hampsten, puckish Bob Roll and Englishman Sean Yates throughout those nine days, which included Stage 3’s 16-km detour on narrow roads to avoid another protest, and a wet, 301-km Stage 5. The team defended intelligen­tly. “We rode tempo when we needed to and wouldn’t when we didn’t need to,” Bauer says.

He also had to survive the 61.5-km time trial of Stage 7. Second-place Pensec, who was 34 seconds in arrears, halved the Canadian’s lead. “It was raining,” Bauer remembers. “I was a little more conservati­ve in the final not to crash, while Pensec took more risks. The key was ‘don’t fuck it up by going down in the wrong place at the wrong time.’”

The mountains ended Bauer’s nine days in yellow. “I didn’t have the fitness I had in ’88, when I was climbing exceptiona­lly well,” Bauer says. He faded in the Alps. At the end of Stage 10, he surrendere­d the yellow jersey to Pensec on Mont Blanc. “I’m still in the bike race,” he said in an interview after the stage. “I’m still going to push myself. Instead of losing it, I have to think about the 10 days I kept it. That’s a great souvenir for my career.” By the end of Stage 11, Bauer shipped more than 20 minutes to his old La Vie Claire teammate Lemond on Alpe d’huez.

Chiappucci took over the race lead two days later following a mountain time trial, becoming the first Italian to wear yellow since 1988. (That year, Guido Bontempi had the yellow jersey after the prologue and lost it to Bauer the next day.) Chiappucci versus Lemond became the main GC fight of the 1990 Tour, with Lemond using Pensec as bait to make up

“I’m still going to push myself.”

nearly five-minutes on “El Diablo” Chiappucci on Stage 13. Finally, Lemond overtook the Italian in the final 45.5-km time trial to win his third and final title by 2:16. In the next two editions of the Tour, Chiappucci stood on the final podium beside winner Miguel Indurain, while Lemond placed seventh in 1991, and then climbed off the bike in his final two Tours.

Without yellow to defend, Bauer and the 7-Eleven team turned their attention to hunting stages and supporting Andy Hampsten, who was seventh on Alpe d’huez and clung to the tail end of the GC top 10 for the second half of the Tour until the final time trial. Hampsten finished 11th, seven seconds adrift of Indurain, who returned the next season to win his first of five consecutiv­e yellow jerseys. Bauer was 27th overall in Paris, taking third on Stage 17 in the Pyrenees and seventh on Stage 19 along the way.

Bauer would start the next five Tours with the Motorola incarnatio­n of Ochowicz’s squad, coming 101st in his final Grande Boucle in 1995. The closest he would come to wearing yellow again was in 1992 when aggressive racing bounced him up to second place behind Pascal Lino during Stages 6 and 7. In total, Bauer started 15 Grand Tours without ever challengin­g the Vuelta a España. In 1992, during his third Giro, Bauer had a Canadian teammate, Brian Walton. It wasn’t until 2012, when Ryder Hesjedal won the Giro, that a Canadian would lead a Grand Tour. Yet, no Canadian has worn yellow since Bauer’s run at the Tour de France 30 years ago.

 ??  ?? Steve Bauer in yellow at the 1990 Tour de France
Steve Bauer in yellow at the 1990 Tour de France
 ??  ?? Bauer on the Stage 11 individual time trial
Bauer on the Stage 11 individual time trial
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