Sprint to Win
Sprinting is often an area of cycling that riders either relish or shy away from.
Sprinting is often an area of cycling riders either relish or shy away from. Some riders are genetically gifted with more fast-twitch muscle fibers, the ones that give pure sprinters their immense bursts of speed. At the other end of the spectrum, the riders who consider themselves climbers would rather try to finish alone than in a group. But the overwhelming truth is that most races will finish in a bunch. The size of the group may vary, but it is relatively rare to win a race from a solo breakaway. The best riders can find a way to win in any situation, so every cyclist should have a sprint in their quiver. Yet, many don’t train this skill at all. If you’re looking to improve your chances of winning, simply incorporating a few sprint workouts on a weekly basis can help you move from the minor placings to the top of the podium.
There are two big components of becoming a better sprinter. One is the mental and tactical aspects and the other is the physical training. Both need to be considered and worked on all year, although the way you address them will change depending on the phase of the year you are in.
Honing Your Sprint Tactics
The mental and tactical skills of sprinting are something that should be practiced whenever possible. No matter where you are in the overall classification for the day, there is almost always a race to the line, even if it’s just for fun. It is this practice that will help down the road when you are toward the front of the race. There are some simple rules that are universally true when preparing for a group sprint. First is that as the race enters the final few kilometers, you need to move up toward the front of the group. Not to the very front, though, as you don’t want to be the one setting the pace and doing the lion’s share of the work pulling the group along. Stay near the riders that you know will be a factor at the end of the race so you can initiate or respond to attacks and surges. Be careful to move around riders you know won’t actually participate in the sprint, the riders who try to finish top 20, but don’t really bother to fight for the win. Don’t be afraid to initiate moves, especially as a means of keeping the pace high. If the pack slows down, you’ll allow riders who would normally be hanging on and out of contention back into the game.
Gearing is another critical aspect of sprinting. Too often riders slam the chain into the 53x12 and then try to accelerate. Instead, try using a slightly lower gear for the beginning of your sprint because they allow you to accelerate faster. This becomes more and more advantageous as you have to shoot from one wheel to another in a larger group, or as riders in a smaller group jump to try to shake others out of the break to reduce