Cycling Technique: The Transfer of Energy

from Australia, an extreme case of energy transfer between the four riders on the outside to the one in the middle. from the Sidney Cyclist

You have heard (whether you believe it, or not, is another matter) of how the "laying of hands" can result in a transference of healing energy. What you may not know is that something vaguely similar exists in the world of cycling. Though it is not a closely-guarded secret, not many cyclists have experienced it. It is a little known and, because of that, little understood phenomenon. So there I was, Friday morning i believe, watching Stage Seven of the Vuelta a Espana. A four man break was nearing the finish of a four hour day, right up to the moment Ryder Hesjedal crashed down hard onto his left side. Hesjedal wasn't down for long, but it was enough time for Alessandro De Marchi to have ridden clear of Hubert Dupont and Johann Tschopp. Of the three behind the one, Hesjedal had the most to gain, and was certainly the bigger name rider. Dupont and Tschopp were not going to help in the chase by riding hard at the front. More than that though, they couldn't, having already been dropped by De Marchi. 

Never-the-less Ryder's two compadres were not without the ability to provide assistance. And that is when it happened. It was Sean Kelly's fellow commentator who made note of it, the only time I can recall having heard it said during coverage of any race - "aaaannndd there it is, a transfer of energy." If you blinked, if your coffee was too hot and you screwed up your face in pain for just a second, if someone at the office called you out for watching that stupid racing stuff again, you may very well have missed it. It was Hubert Dupont laying his hand on the small of Hesjedal's back. This simple, quick, unremarkable (well, except that it was indeed remarked upon) move allowed a small transference of energy from Dupont to Hesjedal. In this way Dupont could help without committing to the extra effort of taking an actual pull at the front. Both Hesjedal and Dupont benefit from this. Tschopp benefits because he can continue to just sit in. De Marchi benefits as well in that only one person is fully committed to the chase. So everyone wins. Sort of.

If this phenomenon goes so widely unreported, how is it that I know of it?

Well, I have been the recipient of just such a transfer of energy on more than one occasion. You are probably thinking, well, maybe the other rider was simply putting out a hand to keep you from careening wildly, or subtly, into him. This, in fact, wast he reason Hesjedal had crashed down moments before.True, there are other reasons another rider might put out a hand, including saving himself (or yourself) from catastrophe, or steadying himself while riding in the middle of the bunch to take a good long look at what is happening further back. All I can say is it is obvious, and you will know it when it happens. I indeed may, and I repeat may, have been the recipient of each of those latter two hand laying methods as well. But in each of those cases the intent and interpretation are both different, and neither results in an energy transfer.

The next time you are on a group ride give it a try. If you want to keep that dude right in front of you where he is, just put a hand on his back to keep him there. And keep you from taking the lead. Two things to consider - it is probably not the best idea to try it on the new guy; newbies can freak out. Second, energy transfers best from right around the hip. Below the waist might not get you the same result.