What's in 45 seconds? Or for that matter, ten?
Here's the deal. The world is coming to Louisville, Kentucky in February, for the UCI World Championships of Cyclocross. American champion Jeremy Powers just won on consecutive days on this course, taking Sunday's Derby City Cup for the second year running, as well as Saturday's first round, also for the second year running. In other words, Jeremy Powers is really really good at winning in Louisville.
So is Jeremy Powers a legitimate contender for the Rainbow Jersey in February?
The answer is... yeah, sure. He can win, though he won't be the favorite. But yeah, if things go right... it's worth considering.
I'm a little out of my depth here, but I know how to parse data, even the minimal data set known as Powers versus the Belgians. And here is what we know.
- Three years ago... I don't really care what happened three years ago. Or two for that matter.
- Last season, Powers finished 15th in the World Cup event in Tabor, 1.24 behind winner Kevin Pauwels. and 39 seconds behind Sven Nys (if you're going to measure yourself...). By January Powers was stuck in gear, finishing 1.35 back of Stybar in Lievin, France... a reasonably similar course to Loo-ville.
- From there his form faded, or something else came up, and he wasn't a factor in the Worlds or elsewhere in Europe. But he did win the US Nats, so he had something left in the legs.
- Last month, Powers caught a bit of attention by leading the first chase group throughout Tabor, finishing seventh. That included a 45 second gap to Pauwels, who has since lost his way. Maybe it's more significant that he was 29 seconds back of Niels Albert and only 10" back of Nys. Tabor is Tabor, not Louisville or Koppenbergcross or anything else. But on that data alone, Powers closed the gap on his Euro stud rivals to a rather manageable one.
How much closer does the gap get when you move them all to a course which we can safely say favors Powers as much as any dirt patch on the planet? When it's the European stars who are staying in hotels and eating strange food ("can I get you anything at Taco Bell, Niels?") and adjusting to staying up five hours later?
The answer depends on a million as-yet-unknowable things, but if Powers can hold his better-than-ever form into that first weekend in February, it's going to be damn fun finding out.