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  1. #1
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    Sprinting top speed....Is it all about the leadout?

    Hey all, just wondering if the top speed of a field sprint (like a criterium) is dependent on the pace right before the sprint.
    What I mean is, if you're being lead out at 30mph and then sprint, what is your top speed?
    If you're being lead out at 20 mph, can you hit that same top speed?


    I'm hoping to race my first crit next march (training now so I might be able to actually finish the dang thing), and am just curious.
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    powered by Racer Ex gsteinb's Avatar
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    The Buddha was a master of answering questions. One of his most frequent answers to a question was a non-answer: he'd simply say "the question is wrong."

    So it goes.

    There is no answer to this. I prefer a long fast lead out that makes guys suffer. My max watts will be a couple 100 less than folks imagine them to be. We may hit the same exact speed on a slower lead out yet I lose because someone didn't suffer as much in the last k, or has a better acceleration from 20 (LOL) to 40 than I do, yet can't really handle the 32 to 40 thing as well.

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    So it's more about tactics prior to the sprint
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    powered by Racer Ex gsteinb's Avatar
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    It's about everything. Races are won and lost on a pedal stroke, fractions of a second, a subtle hesitation. Pick 100 sprints they'll go 100 ways.

    Tactics don't hurt if they work, but its pretty easy to think yourself out of a win as well.

    Fitness, positioning, acceleration, speed all factor.

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    Senior Member shovelhd's Avatar
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    For me, 25mph is too slow, 35mph is too fast. The only way I can get close to 40mph anymore is if the lead out is near the top of that range. However, I am old and not a sprinter. Every situation is different.

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    The point being it doesn't matter how fast you go, it's whether you finish ahead of the next guy.

    So think about how you finish ahead, not how many mph you're doing.
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    Sprinting speed depends on the course going into the sprint, gradient, wind, and rider. A strong sprinter will hit virtually the same top speed given the same course and conditions, and, in a strong headwind, similar jump point.

    The slower the sprint starts the better the jump the sprinter has to have. However a sprinter with a strong jump will be up to top speed pretty quickly. Uphills and downhills really affect top speed - As a general rule I'll say that a fast uphill sprint may hit about 30 mph, a flat one 40 mph, and a slight downhill one 50 mph. Wind is super important - 10 mph more actual headwind means you will be going 10 mph slower in the sprint (if you're hitting the aero wall).

    A leadout helps hit consistent top speeds but the real reason for a leadout is to give the sprinter an ideal spot in the field. Typically evenly matched sprinters will hit about the same top speed. This means that if everyone tops out at 42 mph then no one is passing anyone. This means that if one sprinter started from 2nd spot (due to a good leadout) and another from 4th spot (less good leadout and then surfed wheels to get 2nd wheel behind the sprinter) then the one from 2nd spot will beat the one from 4th spot, even though both are virtually identical sprinters.

    Top speed is a red herring, a distraction. When I had my best top speed I couldn't come close to hitting it in races or I was too far back when I started my sprint (see the paragraph above). I've done consistently better when my actual top speed dropped 10-15% but I was a better all-round rider. Think about that - 10-15% is a LOT of speed - at 40 mph that's 4 mph, so if my top speed was 40 mph before now it's 36 mph. For the last 5-ish years I'm down about 20% from my best but I seem to do better in races due to other factors.

    Relative top speed is important. In this race I did one of the faster sprints of any race that day but I had poor position so I didn't do well at all (in Strava it says I averaged 41.7 mph in the sprint):


    Here's a poor position start but the sprint decides it anyway. Not ideal position but it works out. Uphill, not sure of various speeds, finished at 28 mph?:


    Same course, ideal position, break dangling off the front, I'm less focused on winning than on beating Bryan while still placing top 7:


    Finally if you get to the line in a sprint you should be able to "throw" your bike. It's an easy thing to practice, I think it's fun, and it doesn't take talent or fitness or whatever. It's just technique, just like cornering and drafting. Free places, sometimes even a win (non-HD, 3rd person, same course as the two above):

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    You're the infamous aki, aka SDC aka SprinterDellaCasa I presume.

    I'm hoping to do the bethel spring series in 2014, cat 5 (obviously)

    I've seen most of your vids, trying to scope out Bethel (I live in poughkeepsie NY) so it's a little bit far for me. I'll send you a PM
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  9. #9
    John Wayne Toilet Paper nhluhr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blackvans1234 View Post
    So it's more about tactics prior to the sprint
    Yes, in many ways. Simple conservation of energy. Your phosphate system (the anaerobic energy pathway for sprinting efforts) is only good for about 10 seconds, really, so you have 10 good seconds of maximal effort before you have to switch over to lower power systems like anaerobic glycolysis. So when you think about what it takes to reach a given speed, the acceleration is the number one factor (getting from speed A to speed A+1 takes more energy than just maintaining A+1) and the concept that you only have 10 seconds at your absolutel maximum sprinting effort, the speed you reach before you run out of power is going to be dependent on how fast you were going when you started your sprint.

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    Quote Originally Posted by blackvans1234 View Post
    You're the infamous aki, aka SDC aka SprinterDellaCasa I presume.

    I'm hoping to do the bethel spring series in 2014, cat 5 (obviously)

    I've seen most of your vids, trying to scope out Bethel (I live in poughkeepsie NY) so it's a little bit far for me. I'll send you a PM
    "Infamous", I like that. Yeah, that's me.

    Okay so you have a lot of info then. The Bethel course is... simple. No real turns, the only one is taken at slow speeds. The 5s are hit or miss, sometimes you get some ringers (like pro level mtb type riders who couldn't or didn't get an upgrade to Cat 4 or higher) and the pace is insane. Other times, like this year, it's pretty even in terms of speed/fitness.

    The hill is the main thing but honestly I wouldn't go recon the course except maybe once if you're nervous. Personally I go up that hill solo/training in a 39x17 and think it's hard, and in the race it's 53x15 or 53x17 minimum. In many of my sprints there I'm in a 53x12, and I've hit it in the 11 when it's a tailwind (not in any of the clips I think). Reconning a crit course is deceiving because you go so fast due to the draft that it's a different world when you race. I go into that hill at 18-20 mph myself but in a race we're hitting it at 30 (and soft pedaling going into it).

    In terms of sprint speeds you can usually hit out at a little over 30 mph and then you slow as you go up the hill. If you jump halfway up the hill (typically in a headwind) then you're jumping at a lower speed.

    If you don't have a good jump then you need to accelerate further out. It's a very particular course and certain riders, like myself, tend to do really well in the sprints. I'm much weaker now than say 10-15 years ago so my halcyon days are gone but I've overheard some of the regular P123 winners say that for whatever reason this course really suits them. They all have good jumps, they all need to be fresher going into a finish.

    The thing that gets most new racers is the speed on the flats and the drafting. If you work on drafting, aka riding in a group, then you'll be ahead of the game. Even if you're riding with just a couple other people that's better than nothing. Group rides are better - you might check out Gimbels (although I actually found it a bit unwieldy the last time I did it, this year or last year). There's got to be rides up that way regardless.

    The speed on the flats is hard to imagine if you haven't ridden with a racer or done a race. In group rides with few/no racers if I do a "kinda hard" effort it will blow the group apart. It's not me, it's just that no one else truly realizes the importance of drafting and therefore the importance of responding immediately, and since no one goes immediately (even though I really overtly broadcast any such moves) they hit out at a much lower speed.

    You know the bethelspringseries site, you should check out the clinic stuff. It'll be pretty much the same. I'll tell you this now since I've said it here before - all the drills are designed to help the Cat 5s practice drafting without thinking about it. The idea is to distract the racer with other "tasks" or "ideas" so that the drafting becomes second nature. It's not fun to say "we're going to do pacelines every week" though, and really it wouldn't be as productive.

    All but one of the instructors from the last two years are on BF. Shovel and Homebrew are the two most regular on BF. If you ask a question we'll try to answer it.

    Finally since it's an early season series you'll naturally get more fit as the races go on. In the Cat 3-4 races I expect breaks to go in the first few weeks as the guys that did training camps out west come back home and spank everyone. Then, a few weeks in, everyone is getting above that minimal level of fitness and those training camp monsters have a harder time. Towards the end you sometimes get a totally different cast of characters as riders finish their transition between base miles and racing miles. What I'm trying to say is that you should work on your speed and such now, group riding skills all the time, but try to create a strong foundation for the 2014 season. Get rid of excess weight. Make sure your bike fits. Be efficient on the bike. The speed will come.

    Incidentally someone asked so I looked - Easter is April 20 in 2014. This leaves SEVEN WEEKS IN A ROW from the first weekend in March to April 13 (we don't race Easter). I'm actually considering doing an 8th race April 27th but that's a really faint idea right now. Definitely going to ask permission from the town to do 7. So that's the tentative schedule. I normally ask the town for permission in October so it'll be a bit yet.

  11. #11
    soon to be gsteinc... rkwaki's Avatar
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    Top speed is irrelevant as long as you are faster than everyone else.
    I need a fast lead out, I just don't have the jump of a little guy but I have huge horsepower so I need to be conscious of this throughout a race and see where speed ramps up and play to my strengths and try to minimize my weaknesses. Unlike shovel I am a sprinter but every sprinter is a little difference. Stein has a super violent jump which on many course would leave me wondering where the hell he went. I prefer to see speeds north of 35 for a sprint as my weight doesn't really come into play and I can use all couple thousand of the watts I have available...
    Don't worry about the speed, worry about 'reading' what the sprint is going to be.
    "if you ride it the way it's meant to be ridden there's no way any wife is less of a ***** than a bicycle." - gstein

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