Stage 03: Unley to Stirling (139km). 

Thursday, 24nd January 


Serge Pauwels – Stage 03


Stage 3 of the Tour Down Under saw some aggressive racing, as riders close to Geriant Thomas (Sky) on GC looked to take back some valuable time. Our rider Serge Pauwels (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) was at one point in a dangerous move of 12 riders that went up the road, Sky however recognised the threat and efficiently closed the break down.

That the Belgian, still a GC contender, is prepared to share his power files is a privilege and again we thank Serge Pauwels, Omega Pharma-Quickstep and SRAM allowing RIDE this interesting insight.

For a full explanation of the terms used in this article, please refer to our introduction.

Before we have a closer look at the stage, we now have enough data to get a rough estimate of what Pauwels’ FTP might be. Recalling that FTP (Functional Threshold Power) is the power a rider is theoretically able to hold in a 60-minute time trial effort.

Using the ‘95% of best 20 minute power’ equation, we would have a FTP of 332w (350 * 0.95) or 5.2w/kg. However as Serge’s two other 20-minute powers are 293w and 306w (significantly lower) and his 10-minute power yesterday wasn’t as high as I expected, there is another check we can use.

FTP can also be calculated by taking 81% of the best 5 minute power. The general rule for using this as a guide is taking 74-90% of the best power figure. What end of that spectrum you choose to apply depends on the type of rider you’re analysing. A sprinter would require you to lean more to the lower percentage, a TT specialist and you would take 90% of the figure. Pauwels is neither, however as a climber he still needs to be able to sustain extended periods at threshold or Vo2 max power. Taking 81% (mid point) is a safe assumption, leaving us with a wattage of 367 or 5.7w/kg.

This looks a lot closer to a FTP you would expect to see from a professional rider, yet after adding it to Golden Cheetah (power analysis program) as Critical Power (their term for FTP) we get the below dotted curve.


Stage 3 critical power


The Critical Power summary shows from 5:55 to nearly 10 minutes to be above the Critical Power Curve. This would indicate that we could still be underestimating the FTP. The 20-minute power is still significantly under the curve, although this just confirms our suspicion that we’re yet to see a full 20-minute effort from Serge.

Stage 3 ride summary

While today didn’t have the big power spikes of yesterday or an AP or NP as high, it is what you would expect from an undulating stage – not easy. It’s the most energy burned so far in the Tour and a lot lower discrepancy between AP and NP.

The Ride Plot shows that even with the downhills, there was very little chance for Pauwels to freewheel. Once again today’s stage was a difficult, with the combination of tough racing and the heat it was far from an easy day in the saddle.

Stage 3 ride plot (smoothed 30s)

Looking more closely at today’s plot, we can pick out of the portion where the Belgian moved clear in a 12-man move.


Stage 3 ride plot (break away)


Looking at the breakaway plot we can perhaps assume that Pauwels did not think the move would stick. This is reflected in the numbers over this period, which show him not putting a lot of sustained effort. He instead preferred to play it out and wait to see if Sky would shut the break down, which they did.

Situations like this are ideal. Making what could have been a dangerous move without using a lot of energy. If it moved clear then Pauwels could have committed more, if not then he hasn’t wasted precious energy. On a day that already was hot and taxing this type of approach is smart bike racing.

After his moved was closed down it became a case of conserving and making the finish without losing any time on the GC. This was done with the added bonus of not needing to put in any further major efforts.

19th on GC at the end of the stage. Crashes avoided, mixing it up at the front of the bunch and looking to take time back without wasting energy. A successful day for the OPQS rider, hopefully it can continue in today’s Stage 04.

Thanks to Omega Pharma-Quickstep and Quarq.  For more information please click on the logos below.




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