January 6, 2006 – Pedal Magazine contributor Tim Lefebvre caught up with Canadian cycling legend Steve Bauer just prior to Christmas, to find out the latest.
You’ve been on the go quite a bit – tell us what’s been keeping you busy.
SB: Since the World Road Championships in Madrid I have been kept extremely busy. The World’s were amazing, a great cycling region, good food, great roads, perfect for our group. Extremely cycling friendly, with plenty of bike lanes everywhere and speed limits from eight till noon for cars to respect bikes. The World’s course was hard – I knew it wouldn’t be a rider like Petacchi at the end, and it was exciting to see Boonen, he’s an amazing one-day guy, we’ll see if he can transfer these skills into stage racing.
SB: Well we hit the Vegas bike show, continuing our relationships with existing sponsors. I did an Argon bike demo day with Argon 18 which was fun. We have lined up Shimano for our tour operation, and they will supply gruppo’s and wheels for our tour bikes that we use mainly in Europe.
So have you spent some time in North America?
SB: Currently we are in the office building trips for the Giro and the Tour, and the Giro is gaining a lot of momentum. It will be an incredibly hard race with the last seven to eight days all in the mountains, with the Gavia pass time trial and double stages thrown in. The cumulative effect on the riders will be exhausting, but for us it will be great! We also have some custom programs in Tucson Arizona in late March, early April that serve as a training camp with full support, coaching and extra’s – so were busy diversifying.
We have to ask you about the Red Bull Descent Challenge Steve?
SB: Yeah, the “Red Bull Road Rage” is out near Malibu California and it’s a descent competition on the road. Part of what got me back into racing was the fun, so I checked out their website and they had no yellow jersey guys, so I actually phoned them and they agreed to have me. It’s an exciting event, to go top speed and to hang it out on the edge. The real hardcore guys like Rockwell are kicking their feet out, no brakes and letting it ride on normal bikes. I never went to the absolute edge, but it was a tight, twisty course, and a lot of fun.
You were mixing it up with a broad spectrum of riders?
SB: I finished 14th out of 21 riders and missed the speed record by one mile. The fastest speed was 58 miles and hour by Dave McCook and I did 57 in this special speed zone section, and I missed out on a thousand dollars for that, but again it was fun and I only did the course six or seven times, some of these guys were there for days. In the four-cross I had to respect my health and didn’t get involved in the mix, but there were some serious crashes and broken bones that weekend.
The Ontario scene is abuzz with this new team, can you tell us more?
SB: The team will be called TEAM RACE – Race Against Cancer Everywhere. It’s a three-way fit with a charitable component built in. The sponsorship dollars come from Ontario Energy Savings, the current infrastructure of the team remains from Gears Racing Institute and I bring my name and experience to the table. I was intrigued by the racing scene last year and jumped into a few races, and as well my clients have been racing on the same scene. So there is an opportunity for exposure for the business and at the same time to help our developing riders. I will be able to help with the charitable component like the Tour for Kids, a four-day tour through Ontario in August.
We will be seeing the “new and improved” Steve Bauer on the racing scene?
SB: I had a great time last year and was stoked at the speed and flying through the corners, but make no mistake the risk is still in the back of my mind. I raced Lachine last year in Montreal in the rain, sliding through those corners, it was scary but at the same time, great to be back at a high level. Next year I’ll race when I can, the business is first priority, but it’s great to be involved and have the opportunity to be in there.
It’s been 10 years since your retirement, are you where you thought you would be?
SB: I’m glad I’ve kept involved in cycling, and been able to continue making a living at it. It’s always a balance but it had been enjoyable. I’m happy the company has grown, we have developed some amazing tour experiences. The potential for growth is still there as road cycling has become hot once again. Our direction will be in further developing the high-end tour business in multiple directions.
What do you mean by different directions?
SB: Customization has become key, people request specifics like a cooking school combined with bike riding. So in Provence this June, we will be doing exactly that, cooking classes combined with leisure rides. We can customize any trip, it’s a matter of having infrastructure. In Europe we are strong and better equipped, Belize might be tougher!
So does the Niagara component of Steve Bauer Bike Tours remain active?
SB: Niagara is solid, still constant, we are maintaining our corporate and custom trips in the wine region. We began in 97′ and personally my focus/role has become international, but I have had good people like Ian Lobb to run the business in Niagara. It’s where I grew up and it still is one of the prettiest areas for riding anywhere.
Is there personal satisfaction at running and partaking in this unique business?
SB: Yes, the logistics are a tough grind, the research and business aspect of these tours is not easy. Part of the fun of this kind of tour business is showing our customers the world, and experiencing this world by bike. I feel we are constantly exceeding our customers expectations and the satisfaction in that, is amazing.
The Lance factor has been incredible for the bike tour business in general.
SB: When Lance was at his best the demand was incredible. In 2004 we had four trips with one hundred people simultaneously, and we could have done more, but we had to maintain quality. Cycling enthusiasts just had to go, and more companies came on board, anyone could have run a trip then, but that has now passed. We will continue to do the tour but my gut feeling is that so many have already done the tour that it will soften. On the flipside, Lance has created a momentum that will spill over to other aspects of cycling and other trips will benefit, which is always a good thing.
Without Lance who will win the 2006 Tour?
SB: Basso has been consistent and is probably the best candidate to win next year. In the past few years he has been the one who looks good and he has improved his time trialing ability. I like Vino, he’s a great all-rounder, but he suffers on the long climbs. Valverde has impressed me, especially at the World’s , but can he be consistent.
Welcome to Pedal, I hear there will a column entitled “Bauer Power” in 06.
SB: Yes, I’m excited about contributing some stories and advice to Pedal readers over the next year. I have kept an eye on Michael Barry and Alison Sydor’s columns and it’s a nice opportunity to share my years of past experiences and the upcoming new ones.