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A beginner’s guide to sprinting

Kick up your kick

So many bike races are determined by a sprint. Whether it’s from a small breakaway or a big mad dash by the bunch, chances are most bike races will be won by one. Even if you don’t race, but go on your local club run or out with a training partner, it’s important to work on your speedwork. That imaginary finish by the town sign will never know what hit them.

There’s a few things to remember when you’re working on your sprint.

Set it up

Sprinting begins long before you push down hard on the pedals. When you know there’s a sprint coming up, whether it’s on a club ride or race, you need to steel yourself for it. Think of the weightlifter at the Olympics; they don’t just grab the bar before the clean and jerk. They focus, they take deep breaths and they get in the zone. Same goes for a sprint.

Get your hands at the top of the drops, right in behind your shifters, not down on the hooks. Take deep breaths and get your mind ready. When you get out out of the saddle, aim to push forward at your hips instead, not bending at your waist. By doing this you’ll help transfer all your power to the pedals.

Now go get it

The start of a good sprint is important. You’ll want to use the proper technique to take you through it all. You want to anchor your body to your bike to use every ounce of power in going forward. Hands need to be placed firmly on the bars, and your core engaged, bending at the hips. Then, and only then, can you grab the handlebars, push down on the pedals and lift off.

Drills to drill it

If you want to work on your sprint, it’s important to try and work in some sprinting practice during your training. Since the technique is so important, you can reduce your power, and try sprinting at lower speeds. You can still use a bigger gear, but simulate the act of sprinting without going all-out. Again, focus on the way you’re holding your bars, and the position of your body over the bike. Once you feel good about your technique, gradually up the power and speed. Find a sign or landmark and visualize the end of a race or ride.

30 seconds on, 30 seconds off

A quick and easy workout to work on your sprint is by doing several sets of 30 seconds sprinting, 30 seconds spinning. Find a circuit where you can ride uninterrupted, and then give it for 30 seconds, then relax for another 30. The goal is to work on your jump but retain your technique. Your heart rate likely won’t recover in that quick respite, so you’ll definitely feel it after a few sets. It’s also a fun way to open up your legs if you’re feeling sluggish the day before a race.

Sprinting for the win

Shifting as you sprint

Which gear you pick is crucial in a sprint. Of course, you can always shift mid-sprint but a mistimed shift can sometimes be precarious. To be sure you don’t have some jumping gears in the middle of the strongest part of a pedal stroke, try and make sure your shifts that the chain switches gears just before your cranks are parallel to the top tube.

Finding which gears work for you in a sprint is important. It’s better to start in a smaller (easier) gear and shift down to a bigger one than the opposite. If you start off in too big (hard) of a gear, you may find your legs cooked before the line. Experiment with different gears and see what works for your legs, bearing in mind things like gradient or wind.

25-03-2018 Gent - Wevelgem; 2018, Bora - Hansgrohe; Sagan, Peter; Wevelgem;