The Tour de France is known for its brutal stages, killer climbs, and lightning speeds, but how do these mere mortals accomplish such feats of raw speed and determination? Now drafting has a considerable hand in these mythological accomplishments, however psychology suggests the presence of a phenomenon I also experience every time I get in the saddle among friends and family.
I pride myself on my bike's 2,200+ miles ridden in the last 2 summers, but this was not all my own self-generated will power that has allowed me to ride such distances. Social facilitation is ever present in the sport of bike racing and long distance riding. The mere presence of other riders enhances my own performance while I reciprocally enhance theirs. Alone, on a good day I can average around 17.5 mph for a 25 mi ride. With one or two other people, even without drafting, I consistently average 18-19 mph (it may seem like an insignificant difference, however this is the difference between losing and destroying your competition in a long distance ride). Riding in a pack up 200+ people with drafting has brought my average even up to 25 mph for an equivalent ride.
It is no secret. Social facilitation, even non-verbal urging of one another to compete to our very best ability, and a little friendly competition, has a considerable effect on my riding. I have no doubt that this affects Lance's performance as well, whether or not he knows it. The secret of the peloton's blistering speeds is surely seeded in this phenomenon.