Cyclist hits low after high of London Olympic Games but is now back on course

After the high, the low. Cyclist Jack Bauer struggled to complete the final few months of the season for his new Garmin-Barracuda team after the London Olympics but considers his build-up for tomorrow's national road cycling championships among his best yet.

The 27-year-old from Tasman has form on the Christchurch course, too. He won the national title in 2010, catching Julian Dean and Hayden Roulston napping in the final straight in a surprise victory. His progress continued with his selection for the road race and individual time trial in London last year.

His efforts in August resulted in a 10th placing in the road race and 19th in the time trial - as an early pacesetter he spent a short time on the "golden throne" in front of Buckingham Palace before having to relinquish his spot.

Bradley Wiggins eventually took a popular hometown victory in the individual event.


Not surprisingly, the racing and pressure took their toll on Bauer.

"I went downhill pretty fast after that," he said.

"I found it hard physically and mentally - just with it being such an ordeal. I wasn't sure if I would make selection and when I did it was a real high point of my year and I put a lot of training and emphasis on it which paid off in the end.

"It definitely cost me. The months after the Olympics, I had a pretty rough time finding my legs again. I saw out the season but had a couple of pretty dismal performances.

"When your body tells you it's had enough, all you can do is shut it down and recover and then try to bounce back."

He has done that now, winning two stages in the five-day Tour de Vineyards over the New Year - coming second overall to rising force Michael Vink - and he said he had got to grips with preparing for such a tough race so early in the season.

The 183km nationals course around the roads of Christchurch includes climbing Dyers Pass 10 times, a change from previous years which included the climb 11 times.

It's a course which he doesn't particularly like because of its up-and-down nature.

"I'm not massive but I'm a little bit taller than a lot of people which makes it a little bit harder to get over the hill" - but Bauer's power and grit mean he usually features at the finish.

The impressive Vink is likely to be the biggest threat, according to Bauer. The 21-year-old Cantabrian won last year despite competing as an under-23 rider and he is showing impressive form again.

"He's on another level at the moment. He is probably at one of the high points of his year form-wise, going by the power he's puttingout."

Bauer said his main aim this year was to consolidate his position at Garmin, where he races alongside high-profile riders such as Robbie Hunter, David Millar and David Zabriskie, and his Olympic experience is sure to help with that.

"Even more than being a personal confidence booster [London] gave me a real rise knowing I could make the cut - actually being picked to represent New Zealand in such an important race carried a bit of weight and responsibility.

"Then to have pretty decent legs on the day to sneak inside the top 10, it's definitely something I have to improve upon in the future."