South African professional road cyclist Jay Thomson staked his claim for 2012 Olympic selection when he won the 147km third stage of the 34th annual Joe Martin Stage Race in Fayetteville, Arkansas on Saturday.
The 25-year-old Johannesburg resident powered clear of his three breakaway companions to claim victory in the longest stage of the prestigious four-day event in a time of 4:00:54. Alfredo Cruz (Chipotle) and Louis Crosby (Pure Black Racing) completed the podium positions in second and third respectively.
“It was great to win again,” said Thomson of his first victory of 2011.
“I’ve felt my form improving over the last few weeks and really just needed to get into the right move at the right time. Also, this event is part of the National Racing Calendar and one of my team’s objectives is to be the top-ranked team in the NRC this year, so helping achieve that is very important to me.”
The multiple South African and African champion in the individual time trial has developed into a strong all-round road racer over the past few years and is one of the most reliable workhorses on the United States-based Bissell professional team, often assisting the team’s higher profile sprinters and stage race specialists to win.
The win for Thomson comes at a good time with North America’s highest profile professional race, the Tour of California, starting on May 15.
“This certainly boosts my confidence of having a good ride at the Tour of California. Obviously I won’t be in contention for the General Classification, but I’m definitely aiming for a stage win or stage podium.”
Thomson was one of four South Africans who were left without a team after the new Australian Pegasus team was disbanded once it was denied a ProTour spot by the International Cycling Union in December 2010. The ProTour is professional cycling’s version of a ‘premier division’.
Thomson, along with compatriots Robert Hunter, Darren Lill and Daryl Impey were forced to pursue emergency plan b options to find employment for 2011.
After having raced for the Australian Fly V team, based predominantly in the US during 2010, Thomson’s reputation as a strong all-rounder helped him secure a late spot on Team Bissell for 2011. – Sapa