Jesse Thomas burst onto the triathlon scene by winning the 2011 Wildflower Long Course Triathlon as a first-year pro, but this year you can bet he’s on everyone’s radar.
Jesse Thomas’ world has been flipped upside down since winning the 2011 Avia Wildflower Triathlon as a first-year pro. Last year, he arrived at the race in complete obscurity, riding a borrowed bike, without a sponsor and wearing a pair of $8 aviators. “This time last year I was sitting alone in a tent,” said Thomas while signing copies of Triathlete magazine with his face on the cover for a line of excited fans the day before the race. He’s still wearing the aviators, but the anonymity and second-hand bike are gone. Now he’s racing aboard a bike worthy of his abilities, a Specialized Shiv built with Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 components and wheels from his lone two-year sponsor, a pair of Rolf Prima TDF 60s. This wheel is the first from the Oregon-based brand to incorporate the wide rim design that has been shown to reduce drag more effectively than narrower versions. Instead of riding a traditional disc, Thomas is using a Wheelbuilder.com wheel cover. This simplistic product is basically just two circular sheets of plastic that pinch over the spoked section of the wheel to create a disc-like solid surface. It sounds low-end, but it has been shown to be extremely aerodynamic. His wheels are wrapped in Specialized S-Works Turbo tubular tires. His rear hub is a Saris Power Tap G3 power meter, hidden under the wheel cover.
Heading into this long, hot race, Thomas doesn’t have a bottle cage mounted to his frame. Instead, he is using the integrated Fuelselage bladder that hides in his downtube and two bottle cages zip-tied to his bike. The hose he will use to drink from the Fuelselage is resting on the aerobar extension secured by two magnets. His first bottle cage is zip-tied between his extensions resting close to his elbows. Another bottle cage is zip-tied directly to his saddle rails, sitting off the back of the saddle. He uses a rubber band to secure this bottle and prevent it from ejecting.
Thomas’ fit, which he recently refined in a wind tunnel test with his apparel sponsor Pearl Izumi, is set up using a combination aerobar. He is using Specialized’s stem that blends with the “control tower” extension behind it. Specialized’s highly adjustable aerobar is the only one compatible with this stem and Thomas uses it to angle his Profile Design up-turned aerobar extensions—they fit in the Specialized basebar—upward to shield his midsection. He uses a 2cm spacer to lift his bars slightly. His tunnel test revealed this configuration saves drag. His CycleOps Power Tap Joule 2.0 head unit is mounted between his hands so it is easy to see at a glance.
Thomas is racing a complete Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 drive train with fairly standard gearing rather than easier gears for Wildflower’s relentless hills. His chainrings are 53/39, which is the most typical combination, and his cassette is an 11-25. In addition to the drivetrain components, he is also riding Dura-Ace SPD-SL Dura-Ace carbon body pedals.
Now that Thomas’ cover has been blown, he’ll have to rely on his additional race experience and new pro-level kit to repeat as Wildflower champ against a tough pro field.