If you’ve never witnessed the professional peloton rushing past at high speed, it really is something to behold. They seem to carry that speed effortlessly! Flying at almost superhuman speed. In a world where watts are king, how much power do they need to go that fast? And how much do they save by hiding in the middle of that fast moving bunch?
Well I’m certainly no pro (nor do I produce pro level power) but I can shed a little bit of light for you. Thank me later. So, for a mere mortal, how much power do you really need – and how much can you save? The answer is of course – more!
In my case, to maintain a 20mph average – solo effort over flat to rolling terrain – I usually need to average between 195-210 watts. That’s average for the duration and keep in mind I’m light and pretty aerodynamic. That is not an all-day sustainable pace for me!
Actual real-time power output varies greatly and it’s not simply a matter of dialling in 200W and holding it. There are 300+ watt efforts to maintain speed on the uphills and soft pedalling to recover on small descents. But in general if I’m looking to stick a 20mph average over a set distance, I’ll aim for an even 200 watts.
What about sitting comfortably in a tight bunch? With a good crew around me I can cruise along averaging that same 20mph while tapping out a steady 130-140 watts (sitting in). That represents a substantial energy saving compared to riding solo. I could cruise at that effort all day! That’s just little old me drafting off a handful of average club riders, what about these guys…
Imagine sitting in the middle of a 120+ rider peloton, the draft effect must be MASSIVE! Teams putting in big efforts on the front to keep the pace high while protected riders and team leaders hide in the draft being carried along at high speed. It really is a sight to see – and feel and hear! The amount of energy saved by those guys in the middle is immense. They could easily be putting out less than half the power of the guys on the front.
You can understand how the top professional GC riders can actually “de-train” in the first week of a Grand Tour like the Giro, where they are sitting in the bunch effectively soft pedalling their way around the flat sprint stages before the mountains. Speaking of the Giro, bring on those mountain stages!