The sprint can be broken down into three main components; jump, acceleration and the finish. The Jump should begin in a draft of another rider, not from the front
, and is approximately 10 pedal strokes in a gear that will allow the athlete to wind up to over 120rpm and allow one to accelerate through the finish. Your not racing to the finish line, but several yards past it. The finish, keep looking forward, not to your side, past the finish line. At some point one will get tunnel vision and the athlete probably won’t hear much of anything. If needed throw your bike forward across the line. These skills should be practiced during team, group rides and in every race, even if your sprinting for 10th. Practice makes permanent, everyone has to start somewhere and this will help teach your body, muscles and mind to execute everything automatically. Before most athletes can get themselves into a good position at the finish, they need to develop a full arsenal of skills:
- save several matches for the finish – use WKO cadence chart to analyze previous races to find out if the athlete is only pedaling 80-85% of the race. The “0″ column should be 15 – 20%. A average low cadence, in the 70 – 80rpm range, depending on the terrain, will have an affect on one’s ability to sprint
- tire pressure – 120psi, doesn’t work for everyone. The athlete needs to consider, body weight, road conditions (wet, dry, chip seal) and tire thread count, front and rear might be different by 5psi. I’ve had athletes drop tire pressure from 120 to 100 front and 105 in the rear and drastically improve their confidence in cornering.
- hand location: on the drops, to protect any possible tangling of others handle bar and protect your position by slightly sticking your elbows out.
- bike handling skills – the athlete needs to be comfortable leaning the bike through a turn at high speeds and not scrubbing ANY speed, no braking.
- wrenching or side to side movement – so many racers only mimic what they see others do on TV or at a race. The racer is using their bars and pedals as leverage during the jump. Simultaneously — the bike is leaning to the right, with the pedal in the 2 o’clock position and pushing hard on the pedal, and pulling up with their right hand in the drops then do the same thing on the left and continuously for 10 pedal strokes. Maybe not the best description but, his is how you execute the jump.
- neuromuscular development – teach the nervous system to efficiently spin at 130rpm without bouncing on the saddle. Sample workout, continue to add time and increase the cadence over several months.
WU: 10 minutes with watts ramping up to Tempo/Z3
UP TO 3x
20 – 30 seconds @ 100 – 110 rpm
30 seconds easy spin
20 - 30 seconds @ 110 – 115 rpm
30 seconds easy spin
20 – 30 seconds @ 115 – 120 rpm
CD: 5 minutes with HR at Active Recovery/L1 with cadence close to 80rpm
- know when YOUR athlete should jump, 300K, 200K, or 100K. If you don’t practice it, you won’t have any idea and your just guessing. Each athlete is different.
- jump first – most athletes will wait for a competitor to jump, now your athlete is already a bike length or two behind chasing the competitor. Usually this is cause by lack of confidence in oneself or they are up against that guy “the great sprinter” If you react first, you could beat “the sprinter”.
- confidence: the race is completely different and obviously much more aggressive with split second decision that can only be made with confidence and experience in the top 10 during the final kilometers as compared to the top 20. You can attempt to describe it to an athlete, much easier when they have past races to reflect on and understand.
- throwing your bike: you don’t want to go through everything and lose a race by inches or a foot by rolling through the finish. The athlete needs to know how and when to throw their bike across the finish line.
- KNOW the last 1K of the race, turns, inclines, inside/outside line. Arrive at the venue with enough time to scout out the finish line AND the last 1 and 2K. Look for permanent structures at all the critical points leading up to the 200K mark as you might miss the promoters sign during the final moments of the race. This could be a house, tree, street sign etc.
- body type: obvious, is the athletes frame built for climbing or sprinting.
- weight: to much additional weight could be a limiter, even if the Crit is flat, additional weight will make a difference in the initial jump, more strength is used to get the mass moving which takes away from the distance covered with each pedal stroke. For example; a 70 inch tall elite male weight should be in the range of 145 – 170lbs and a 67 inch tall elite woman should be in the range of 123 – 144lbs. I don’t want to pigeon hole any one but this is an excellent guideline. Yes, an athlete can be out of these ranges and still be a good sprinter.
- muscle fibers (fast or slow twitch): yes, I know we all know this. After doing proper testing or even better the athlete has a season of power files with sprints. Review their Power Profile Chart, which column, 5 sec, 1 min, 5 min or FTP more dominate than the other. A sprinter will have a distinct downward sloping plot; very high 5 second compared to a moderate or low FTP based on their current racing category. Also, complete the Fatigue Profile on the Peaks Coaching web site: http://www.peakscoachinggroup.com/FP.aspx
- years of racing: an athlete with several years of racing will have more experience to draw from and react to each different situation in a sprint as compare to someone with only one season in their legs. A bit more of a challenge if an athlete is only racing once per month.
- type of racing: if the athlete has been doing Ironman distance races for several years, it might take a few seasons to train the entire body to sprint.
- age: your natural ability to sprint is much different at 16, 26, 40 and older. There are always exceptions, but as we get older our ability to sprint diminishes as compared to someone younger. It’s better to compare an athletes ability to sprint with one’s peers/age group than getting frustrated by a younger racer in a Cat 4 or 3 race, who is out sprinting an athlete with only one season of racing and is older.
Racing Tactics for Cyclists – provides some insight
One Way Road – Robbie McEwen – he describes the moment
Yes, there are countless variations of everything that I have mentioned, but it should be a solid starting point.