Stage 05: Jayco Stage 5 – McLaren Vale to Old Willunga Hill (151.5km)
Saturday, 26th January
Stage 5, the queen stage, for the Tour Down Under has arrived and RIDE has been given the opportunity to see if the rider we have been fortunate enough to follow all week, Serge Pauwels, will be in the position to take a shot at the general classification. As expected, it was the most taxing in terms of total energy expenditure for the day out of all the stages in this years race.
However, looking at the difference between AP and NP and the average cadence, it looks a safe assumption to say that up until the second lap up Old Willunga Hill the aims were position in the peloton and energy conservation.
We could see that Sky controlled the race in an attempt to leave the break out front as long as possible, ideally leaving the winning move as small a time as possible to get away.
The issue that posed for a rider like Pauwels is that it became less of a climber’s finish and more for the uphill sprint specialists – as Simon Gerrans proved. Up until the point that Gerrans jumped, Serge was still in touch with the front of the race.
We know that Gerrans is capable of pushing 400w in the final 2km of a race the distance of Milan San-Remo. Even in spite of being ill, it would be likely this figure would be higher for a finish like yesterday. Both riders are also within 1kg of each other (so essentially equal in power to weight). Finally we see from the moment Simon jumped from the chasing bunch to crossing the finish line the time elapsed was 1:50.
With all this in mind, the critical power chart shows that Pauwels was ‘only’ capable of a 450w effort for 1:50
We say ‘only’, as that is down from the 473w for the same time period that Serge produced on Stage 2. To jump with a rider like Gerrans it was going to take, at minimum, matching his best power for this time.
An explanation to why Stage 2’s power could not be matched might lie in the work the rider was forced to do simply to stay in touch with the chasing bunch. A new Tour-best 10 minute power which shows that there was serious sustained power (6.4w/kg) required before the winning move went. Closer examination of the ride plot for the final climb up Willunga confirms this.
Even on the bottom end of the climb, Pauwels’ power was pushing towards 400w. The winning move was made just on two and a half minutes (1:50 for Gerrans plus the 43s gap to Pauwels at the line) from the end of the ride. Track back on the ride plot and you can see that not only does this correlate perfectly with the third spike in power, but unfortunately for Serge also the smallest.
There are only so many anaerobic efforts a rider is able to make within such a short time period. This final kick seems like it was simply one too many for Pauwels. The OPQS tactic of sending Velits up the road at the start of the climb was a tactic to avoid such a situation, unfortunately for the team it did not work out. The final climb became less about a great FTP and more about anaerobic capacity – not a strong suit for a climber like Serge.
Good news is that it only meant one place in GC dropped – which with only the final stage crit to negotiate should mean a solid top 20 final placing.
As a aside, bearing in mind there’s only a listed 1kg difference between Gerrans and Pauwels’ weights, it speaks volumes for how big Simon’s final effort was to not only gap the bunch but to also put a further 43 seconds in to Serge. Never mind the power figures he would have hit…that is why these guys are the best.
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