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Economy of effort

economy of effort, maximum performance for the least energy expenditure

Endurance sports are more about saving energy, than how much power you can put out as an athlete. This is especially true of road cycling where we race in a peloton and huge differences in energy expenditure are found by just moving position in the bunch. Economy of effort is one of the most significant aspects of performance. Ironically, five years as a domestique has led me to vastly underestimate the effect of good positioning and economic riding in the peloton. Energy saving can be HUGE, think about this: drafting effect
  • Cycling with a rider on your wheel (just behind you) saves 10% energy because he's occupying the 'vacuum' generated as you go through the air.
  • Being behind a rider saves up to 24% energy, obviously because he's breaking the way into the air mass ahead, producing an area of turbulence for you to ride in.
  • 4th or 5th riders down a paceline generally save about 30% energy.
  • In the middle of the peloton saving can be upwards of 40%
  • Also, the faster we're moving the more significant the effect of drafting as air resistance increase exponential (to the square of speed.
  • Even at low speed on climbs (16-20kh) very significant amounts of energy are saved by drafting ~between 5% and 15% percent. Considering the small differences between cyclist physiologically, you can understand just how significant this effect is!
  • Behind a car the effect is event more pronounced:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pY57Xmoe4zY So think about that next time you see the domestique and rouleurs rolling in with the sprinters in the gruppetto ;-) The actual numbers differ slightly depending where you see them. I took my values from 'Racing Tactics for Cyclist'  by Thomas Preen. The diagram is from James Hagberg, 1990.

There's a lot more to this topic which is vast, so I'll cover it bit by bit.


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