Sprinting is quite an art and doesn’t come naturally to everyone. No matter how much time, money and training you put into the sport you still have to remember that it’s the first person across the line that wins the bike race. But it may not necessarily the fittest or the strongest. So whatever your style of racing and tactics you choose to execute, every rider will at some point find themselves in a sprint situation. Why not give yourself the best chance you can? We have a handful of top tips about how to sprint.
Practice makes Perfect
Having confidence in yourself, your legs and your equipment is a huge part of winning a sprint so practicing the effort and learning how your bike handles is critical. Sprint finishes vary in type; some are on the flat, out of corners, up hills or even combinations of each so practice helps you fine tune your technique and intuition. Top tip is to find a quiet road with a slight down hill gradient leading to a slight up hill gradient, less than 5%. Use the first to build your speed and the second to make your effort, around 200 meters. Choosing two points such as lamp posts or signs to begin and end your sprint works great. Turn around or make a loop out of it and repeat the effort 5 times. Just be aware of other road users. Alternatively nominate a town or village road sign whilst out on a ride with friends and practice against each other, again being aware of other road users and obeying the highway code.
Timing is also critical to winning the sprint. Many races are based on a lap format so spot the lead into the finish each time you pass and pick a point where you’d ideally like to begin your effort.
For hill top sprints – it’s about pacing yourself and getting the jump just at the right time. Go too early and you really will “hit the wall” struggling just to make it to the finish line. Too late and you’ll finish frustrated that there was perhaps more left in the tank. Practicing hill sprints will help you gauge the effort. Try 100 meters from the top of a climb and always ensure you power up and over the top of the hill too. Often finish lines are placed just after the brow of a hill.
For flat sprints – Weather conditions and other riders play a big part in correctly timing your sprint. If finishing into a head wind there’s a big advantage from following a wheel up until the very last possible point, you don’t want to go early dragging other riders with you whilst you push through the wind. With a tail wind the sprint will be faster so you’ll want to begin your sprint earlier. You need to be prepared to react to other riders should someone decide to go earlier than you. And when you do get that perfect lead out from another rider make sure to lay-off the wheel slightly just before making your final effort. This gives you space to react and helps catapult you past the rider.
Make sure you choose the right gear. This is a common mistake and is hard to judge. Too small and you will end up spinning madly and unable to maintain an out of the saddle effort. Over gear yourself slightly to begin with and make sure you’re comfortable grabbing another gear or two once you’re on top of the effort. For the vast majority of sprints you’ll want to choose the big ring at the front, even those hill top finishes.
For tight circuit sprints – It’s likely you’ll begin your sprint straight out of a corner. Again picking the right gear is critical but do this before making the turn so as not to risk your pedals striking the tarmac mid corner. Try to keep as much momentum as possible through the corner so you can carry this through to the finish.
Give yourself the very best chance of winning the sprint by positioning yourself correctly in the lead up. You don’t want to be on the front of the bunch, pushing the wind, but equally you want to stay within the top 10 or so positions so as not beginning your effort too far back. There will be a constant surge of riders trying to move up well in advance of the finish so stay alert and keep moving forward. Spot your point and pick the most direct line as possible, trying not to get boxed in.
Last but not Least - Stay Safe.
It’s very easy in the heat of the moment for the red mist to descend. Remember it’s every rider’s responsibility to look after themselves and those around them. The bunch sprint can will be fast and tight so.
Let us know your top tips throughout our How-To Series by commenting on our blog or tweeting us tagging @ProBikeKit with the hashtag #PBKracetips