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Thomson wins South African Road Championships
March 7, 2013  

Supplied by Dr Carol Austin and Trevor Court from ActiveWorx

Jay Thomson became the new South African National road champion after winning the Elite championships in Nelspruit on 3 March 2013. The challenging 157km route consisted of three hilly 49km laps (Fig 1) with the total ascent adding up to 2126m. Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung riders, Jay Thomson and Louis Meintjes, attacked what was left of the main field with 43 kilometres to go. A big group formed behind to bring the dangerous move back, but their chase effort was in vain. Thomson and Meintjes crossed the finish line together in 3 hours 57 minutes to claim both the Elite and U23 2013 National Champion titles.

Photo Credit: Craig Dutton


Fig 1: 2013 SA Road Championships route  and profile (157km including 3 x 49km laps)

SRM Data Analysis

Thomson’s SRM file shows just how hard-earned this green and gold jersey was.

Key summary data as shownin Fig 2:

Time: 3:57:36


AverageSpeed: 39.6kph

AveragePower: 281W

NormalizedPower: 368W

IntensityFactor: 0.877

AverageCadence: 69rpm

MedianCadence: 90rpm

EnergyExpenditure: 4011 calories

Cycling South Africa usually vary the location of the national road championships on an annual basis. However, the 2012 and 2013 editions were identical in terms of race location, route, and timing (1st weekend in March). This allows for a simple through interesting comparison of the finish times which reflect a significantly increased race speed. Thomson and Meintjes finished the race 10-minutes ahead of Robert Hunter’s 2012 winning time of 4hr07min.

Here’s how the raceunfolded as shown in Fig 2:

Lap 1 was completed in a time of 1hr14min with an average speed of 40kmph. This hot pace was set largely by the MTN-Qhubeka World Cycling Centre Africa. Thomson raced conservatively finishing up with an average power of 261W and normalized power 366W by the57km mark. His team mates did a great job at keeping him sheltered and protected.

Lap 2 was slightly less intense, and was completed in an average speed of 38kmph. Thomson produced an average power of 242W and normalized power 352W. His average heart rate during the second lap was 154bpm which was almost identical to the first lap,confirming that there was no evidence of increased effort, fatigue or cardiac drift.

Lap 3 was the crucial lap, completed at an average speed of 41kmph. Thomson produced an average power of 353W and normalized power 394W. His average heart rate was 176bpm (close to his threshold heart rate of 180bpm) confirming a significant increase in effort.

Fig 2: South African Championships Road Race

T: Time, P: Power, H: Heart rate, S: Speed (kph), C: Cadence, A: Altitude (m),D: Distance (km), E: Energy(kilojoules)

The Race Determining Move

The tempo was relatively slow at the start of the 3rd lap. On the 3% grade drag into White River Team MTN-Qhubeka took control (Fig 3 section 5). Bradley Potgieter and Martin Wesemann drove the pace, and it was on thelast 2km steeper section (4.5% grade) that Meintjes made the race determiningmove. Thomson followed. He produced a powerburst of 490W in the first 3min22sec of the chase and then through persistent effort bridged over to his teammate. For this 11-minute bridging period (Fig 3 section 6), he averaged 398W.

Thomson and Meintjes are both excellent time trialists; the silver and gold medalists of the 2013 SA Championships Elite & U23 Time Trial,respectively. Over the last 50minutes/36km of the race the duo combined their efforts, and raced on to claim the double gold Elite and U23 Road Champion Titles. During this 50 minute section of the race Thomson averaged 350W(normalized power 388W), 43kph, and had an average heart rate of 178bpm (Fig 3section 7).

Fig 3: Lap 3 – The winning move in detai l

Smart “Match-Burning”

Road race winning requires perfectly timed, tactically smart efforts from an in-form team.  “I can’t not name one of my teammates today,” said a smiling Jay Thomson. “They were just super strong. We were hoping that one of us would get away and other teams would chase and if it got brought back we’d attack again. When I saw Louis go up the road I attacked up one of the steep sections and got across to him as I sensed that was themoment in the race. With the two of us being in the top four of the time trial on Thursday, we knew we had the legs to take it to the finish.”

Our in-depth analysis of Thomson’s data highlights demonstrates the importance of smart energy management; from both conservation and expenditure perspectives.

Using SRMWin software we measured the energy expenditure per lap, as well as the duration and percentage time that Thomson was coasting or “soft-pedalling”. Coasting or soft-pedaling was defined via two criteria which had to be jointly present; a cadence of 0-60rpm and a power of 0-160W (well within Thomson’s active recovery power zone of 0-235W).  

As shown in Table 1, Thomson burnt 4012 calories during the race, 32% in Lap 1, 28% in Lap 2 and 40% in Lap 3. He coasted/soft-pedaled for 53 minutes or 22% of the total race time. When we look at this finding on a by-lap basis the true picture of smart “match-burning” is reflected. On laps 1 and 2 he coasted/soft pedaled for around 30% of the time! In lap 3, the duo time trial,this was reduced to a mere 6%.

Thomson rode smartly, conserving his energy through soft-pedaling and the help of his team mates until the critical point in the race. He then committed whole-heartedly to the race winning move and had the reserves on hand to turn it to gold!

Table 1: Energy expenditure and recovery periods by lap 




Time (h:mm:ss)

Energy Expenditure (Calories)

Energy Expenditure (%)

Time spent coasting/soft-pedalling* (mm:ss)

% Time spent coasting/soft-pedalling*

Entire Race






Lap 1 (incl. 7.5km from start)






Lap 2






Lap 3 (incl 3.77km to finish)







*Defined as a cadence of 0-60rpm and a power of 0-160W concurrentlypresent

Jay’s Secret to Success:

Energy management is a critical determinant of success in road racing.Winning athletes and their teams know when and how to conserve it and use it when it counts!

“There are no words that can describe what it means to be the South African National Champion,” Thomson said after the finish. “It feels like a weight has been taken off my shoulders.I am really excited about it and can’t be happier. I can’t wait to have the jersey on my back on Wednesday in Tirreno-Adriatico.”

Jay Thomson

Team MTN-Qhubeka trains and races with SRM Training Systems

Team MTN-Qhubeka is coached by Dr CarolAustin and Trevor Court of Activeworx