The Will to be the Best . . . kind of


No matter what the sport, there will always be those who accel above others. Natural talents, gifts if you will, that are given to a tiny, select few. Millions of people participate in sports all over the globe, but there is a small fraction of them who make it to the top of their sport. When I coached high school baseball, my players use to say that a certain player from another school was a “phenom.” I usually just grinned and said that when they actually saw a “phenom” they would know it. They are rare. Here are some examples of naturally gifted athletes, past and present, who seem to dominate at will:

Miguel Cabrera, baseball

Steph Curry, basketball

Peter Sagan, cycling

Usain Bolt, sprinter

Wayne Gretzky, hockey

Roger Federer, tennis

Mike Tyson, boxing

Diego Maradona, soccer

Connor McGregor, mixed martial arts

You get the point. But the question is training. Can the average Joe train hard and long enough to complete with one of these men in his sport? Not all of the sports listed above are aerobic in nature, but let us look at VO2 max in the elite athlete as an example. This is the measure of VO2 max is the maximum (max) rate (V) of oxygen (O2) your body is able to use during exercise, so the greater your VO2 max, the more oxygen your body can consume, and the more effectively your body can use that oxygen to generate the maximum amount of ATP energy. The VO2 max values in an average adult are around 30-45 milliliters of oxygen per kilogram of body weight per minute. A professional cyclist for example is around 75-85 ml/kg/min range!

The question is still remains. Did training develop this high level or was it gifted (oh, I am aware that some are reached by nefarious means). But the answer to developed or gifted is yes. Although, the original question is can the average Joe train hard enough to get this high level? Depends. One must remember that many, if not all, Tour de France or any grand tour winners have been extensively training since they were children and begin riding professionally in their very early 20s, years of dedication. Sure, there are exceptions like UCI World Tour cyclist Michael Woods. He did not even start riding a bicycling until 2013, but then again, he was an incredibly gifted runner prior to that. The point is that some start out at a naturally high level and the training pushes the level to elite limits; so that puts a massive challenge to the average Joe.

Cheating will always be here. People will find a way to gain an advantage. Drugs are one thing, like watching some of the female athletes in the CrossFit Games. What the? And no, it is not sour grapes either. It is just common sense. That being said, now that the pandemic has pushed more people inside and virtual activities have increased, like cycling, there is another way to cheat. I have actually gotten to the point, when I am riding my trainer on Zwift, to ignore the weight dopers. What is that you ask? Someone who flat-out lies about how much he weighs, so that Zwift calculates his power to weight differently to show a massive power to weight ratio; thus an average Joe can climb Mont Ventoux at 7 watts per kilo for an hour straight. Okay, dude, either you are lying or the UCI World Tour has missed out on a possible grand tour winner who is riding in a garage in Minnesota. Some of the ratios can be quite comical at times.

To my original point, somedays you are the windshield and somedays you are the bug. No one person can dominate all of the time, elite or the average Joe. You can intensify your training to achieve goals and work hard to gain certain advantages, but when you are doing things that are straight up illegal or just immoral. How can you feel accomplished? When the smoke clears, you are either a doper or just a big guy in a basement claiming to weigh 60 kgs.

6 thoughts on “The Will to be the Best . . . kind of

  1. I certainly learnt to ignore the weight/power dopers on Zwift, intentional or otherwise. At the end of the day it didn’t change my ride or cost me virtual results. As to whether the average Joe can train hard and long enough to complete with Elite level professionals? I don’t think it’s possible. At that very top elite level, I believe you’ve got to start with excellent genetics and build on that with hard work. As rough as it may sound, these days hard work alone probably won’t get you all the way to the top.

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