Steve Bauer reflects on Canadian cycling team's maiden voyage
You’ll have to pardon Steve Bauer if he’s a little worn out at the end of a long season.
The former Canadian cycling great might not be racing the bike anymore, but as the manager of Team SpiderTech powered by C10 in their maiden season on the Continental Pro tour he certainly had an awful lot on his plate. It’s the first time Canada has fielded a team at that level of pro cycling.
Bauer reflected on the team’s rookie season in a recent telephone interview.
“It’s a challenge for our guys to compete against world tour teams,” he said. “I consider ourselves a Continental Pro team Division II and we’re racing often against Division I teams in the bigger races. We’re the little fish in the big stage.
“I think the guys rode well. We have some talented young guys that stretched their legs against some of the best. We took our knocks, too. We had injury, we had illness, we had to fight through. I think the results the guys got were decent, but I think the team is much better. With a little more experience, I think these guys can raise the bar much more and I think we’re looking forward to seeing what they can really do.”
The good news for the team moving forward is their major sponsors are sticking with them as they try to climb the ladder, particularly SpiderTech, whose owner Ray Arbesman was a driving force in getting the squad up and running.
But to reach their goal of the Tour de France, they’re going to have to convince more big Canadian companies to believe in their dream.
“Inevitably, it comes down to the almighty dollar,” said Bauer. “You can enter the pro tour if you have the financial resources to hire the players and build the infrastructure to make it happen. But if you don’t have the finances to hire the players with the points, with the sporting values to reach pro tour, it’s just unrealistic, right. We can compete as a great Canadian team, but we won’t be on the Tour (de France), plain and simple.
“If we were a French team, we would obviously have a much better shot at a wildcard invite, right. Just like Europcar this year was a Continental Professional team and they had a invite, as did all the other French Continental Professional teams. Maybe we have to adjust our status to be French to get a better shot.”
Bauer laughs when it’s pointed out they have a good quota of French Canadians on the squad.
“I don’t think that counts when you’re talking about the Tour de France,” he said.
Among the highlights for the team this year, Bauer points to 21-year-old David Boily from Quebec City winning the mountain phase of the Giro di Sardegna and nearly capturing the Tour de l’Avenir; Hugo Houle, 20, of Ste Perpetue, winning both under-23 races at the Canadian road championships; American Pat McCarty winning best climber in the Amgen Tour of California; and Canadian veteran Svein Tuft winning the Grand Prix Stad Zottegem in Belgium.
Bauer said they’re not at a level where they could hope to keep Tuft for another season, given he has only a few years of racing left and is clearly a first division, UCI World Tour rider. Tuft signed with new Australian team GreenEDGE.
Bauer acknowledges it’s hard competing with the big boys of cycling.
“It’s a tough job to get it all done when you’re small,” he said. “We could really use double the infrastructure to get the job done. We’re really stretching our resources.”
But the dream of making it to the Tour de France remains. Their original short term goal was 2013, something Bauer believes could still be done if they landed a key sponsor in the next six months. Otherwise, he said they’re looking at 2014.
“The exciting part is we continue to believe we can make this happen,” he said. “It’s really exciting, the challenges we have before us. If we don’t aim for the top, we’ll never get halfway. It feels really good to be leaders in something that’s very challenging in Canadian sport. Who knows? Maybe that’s why I’m doing it.”
(The photo of SpiderTech's Will Routley was taken earlier this season by Etienne Garnier/VeloFotoPro)