Racing with a pro--Phil Gaimon at Greenbelt last month, for example--provides the occassional thrill for me. I initiated a break that Phil, along with Chuck Hutch, joined. Then they dropped me. But at least I rode the wheel of the young pro who writes the blog "Living the Dream" for Bicycle Magazine (yeah, yeah, it's a Fred-zine, I know). You know, I can think to myself, only a few watts and years separates a guy like Phil and me. The physics of bike racing invite this kind of delusion: that is, I can [almost] hang on the wheel of a pro; therefore, I am [almost] as good as a pro.
For some of us, however, the thought of almost-equality is not delusional. Last year in an interview with In the Crosshairs, Joe recounted what it was like to race with the best:
"European racing is very condensed; the best guys in the world are consistently showing up at the biggest races in a relatively small area. Think Sven Nys showing up at every MABRA race."
For most of us, Joe has been our Sven. Earlier this Summer, Joe won at Wintergreen Ascent by putting out, at 154 pounds, around 390 watts for 32 minutes. He beat last year's winner and record holder Jeremiah Bishop and nearly set a new course record.
This means Joe ranks, if Andrew Coggan's chart (above) is to be trusted, somewhere among the exceptional domestic pro's.
Joe's numbers at Wintergreen are impressive, but there are several riders with comparable results in MABRA. There are even several young MABRA riders with comparable results (Nate Wilson comes to mind).
If you read Joe's gamjams blog entries from Europe, you'll appreciate his thoughtful approach to the sport. The guy pays attention. He's not just a watt machine.
Still, cycling's a numbers game: if you think you've got what it takes to hang with Joe, hop on your bike for 32 minutes. You must be under 20 years of age to compete. Pump out 390 watts. Be 154 pounds or less. Make sure the air temperature is at least 85 degrees.
If you've succeeded in matching or exceeding Joe's numbers, congratulations. If you've failed, don't worry. You can still qualify if you manage to put out 540 watts for 4 minutes, as Taylor Phinney (Trek-Livestrong's other under-20 American rider).