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Track Cycling: Velodrome Racing and Training Area Looking to enter into the realm of track racing? Want to share your experiences and tactics for riding on a velodrome? The Track Cycling forums is for you! Come in and discuss training/racing, equipment, and current track cycling events.

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Old 12-26-12, 01:25 AM   #1
GT4
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Can small guys be fast?

I'm 5' 1" and growing slowly but surely. My friend said all good sprinters are 200lb and I'm only 90-95lb. He really destroyed my confidence because the sad part is, he is a fat fart (180+), I'm in great shape, and he still knows how to smash it harder than me. Do you guys know anyone "small" that knows how to really smash it? Any tips for us small guys, or should I just pack my bags and go home? Please shed some light on me.

Last edited by GT4; 12-26-12 at 01:36 AM. Reason: Forgot last sentence
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Old 12-26-12, 03:29 AM   #2
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I recently watched one of our local road pros take on our most experienced local trackies, on a borrowed track bike, with no prior experience. he's not a big guy, maybe an inch or two taller than you, and he was right up there. granted, it was in the longer track events, but it was awesome. sprinting needs pure power = big muscles. But in pursuit and points etc, never underestimate the benefit of better aerodynamics (i.e. a smaller frontal area presented to the wind)
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Old 12-26-12, 11:59 AM   #3
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Smaller riders do just fine. I'm not sure of your age but sounds like you may be a teen/tween. If so just worry about learning the skill set and enjoy it.
The great thing about track is that some parts are better suited for the larger guys while others for the leaner ones. You will find yours soon enough.
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Old 12-26-12, 03:46 PM   #4
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Azizul Awang. In other words, yes.
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Old 12-26-12, 07:38 PM   #5
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I'm 5'5 and about 125 pounds. When I wanted to get into track I was also told that being smaller is better for geared bikes. However, I've learned to be proficient at it. All cyclists back in the day were small and slender. For longer races, it's harder for people to get in your draft(near impossible).
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Old 12-27-12, 12:32 AM   #6
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I'm 5' 1" and growing slowly but surely. My friend said all good sprinters are 200lb and I'm only 90-95lb. He really destroyed my confidence because the sad part is, he is a fat fart (180+), I'm in great shape, and he still knows how to smash it harder than me. Do you guys know anyone "small" that knows how to really smash it? Any tips for us small guys, or should I just pack my bags and go home? Please shed some light on me.
How is it that a hyped up 4 cylinder Civic can beat a 8 cylinder SUV? The SUV certainly makes more power...but the Civic is lighter.

The key is not weight or power. The key is power/weight ratio.

How old are you?
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Roadies can run tempo all year as that's what humans were designed for. If you want to be a cheetah, lay around and lick your paws more.
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Old 12-27-12, 02:05 AM   #7
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How old are you?

Almost 16. My doctor said I'm a "late bloomer".
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Old 12-27-12, 02:41 AM   #8
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When I did high school physics, we learned about the Lilliput theory. It goes like this:- Say your linear dimension (e.g. the diameter of your leg) is X. Well the muscular strength is proportional to X squared. The volume of your leg is proportional to X cubed. Weight is proportional to volume. So if we take this a step further we see that a smaller person has a much higher strength to weight ratio than a taller or fatter person. For example; note that a small dog can easily carry another small dog on it's back, however, an elephant will almost be crushed if you put another elephant on it's back. It's also the reason why a jumbo jet is not the same shape as a bumble bee. Unfortunately I am tall but I wish I was short. I have friends who are short and they are much stronger than me. The only thing I excel at is swimming - but that is because resistance in the water is less for a longer form. Enough of the physics lesson.
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Old 12-27-12, 04:43 PM   #9
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For a good while these two were the fastest track racers in the game. Theo Bos on the right has legs half the size of Chris Hoy.
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Old 12-27-12, 06:28 PM   #10
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Bradley Wiggins certainly isn't a big guy. Haha! And there's a fella named Mark Cavendish who is not slouch on the track either. These guys aren't full out sprinters but can drop the hammer on the track. Just ride every discipline you can and see which suits you the best. And above all...ENJOY!
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Old 12-28-12, 12:05 AM   #11
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For a good while these two were the fastest track racers in the game. Theo Bos on the right has legs half the size of Chris Hoy.
Yes! This is an excellent example.

They were the top 2 riders in the world in 2008:

Round 1:
[video=youtube;oI3qWekkYtI]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oI3qWekkYtI[/video]

Round 2:
[video=youtube;LWHjg7iBp98]http://www.youtube.com/watch?hl=fr&v=LWHjg7iBp98[/video]

Round 3:
[video=youtube;RQ1j8sXtMqI]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQ1j8sXtMqI[/video]
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Roadies can run tempo all year as that's what humans were designed for. If you want to be a cheetah, lay around and lick your paws more.
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Old 12-28-12, 11:05 AM   #12
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I was taught in match sprints that you always look over your down track shoulder. In the first round Hoy gets caught looking the wrong way and Bos jumps it perfect.
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Old 12-28-12, 12:38 PM   #13
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I was taught in match sprints that you always look over your down track shoulder. In the first round Hoy gets caught looking the wrong way and Bos jumps it perfect.
Yeah, you'd be amazed at how many riders at the world level have trouble looking over their shoulder and doing other small things. For example, it seems that Bauge has trouble riding slowly...even on the apron.

In the first video, Hoy got jumped for a different reason. Hoy was on the apron. There is nowhere to look but right as the opposing rider cannot pass you on the left side when you are already on the apron.

Boss had height. Bos noticed Hoy climbing into turn 4 and jumped him. So, it was a double advantage for Bos. The proper reaction for the lead rider is to dive to the sprinter's lane and cut off the attacker forcing him to the apron. This actually happened in round 3 (at the 1:30 mark). BUT, it looks like Hoy's bike was angled such that he couldn't cut left and dive down without falling over.

Hoy was in the exact same situation (albiet at a slightly faster pace) in round 3 and executed perfectly which neutralized the attack. This brought the sprint down to a drag race to the finish.

Watch Becky James (rear) do a similar move to Jess Varnish here at the 0:20 mark.

James fakes a dive down track then corrects herself. Varnish bikes the fake then corrects herself. As Varnish is correcting (moving up track), James dives down for the real attack.

[video=youtube;iKt1QxOyVBY]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKt1QxOyVBY[/video]
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Roadies can run tempo all year as that's what humans were designed for. If you want to be a cheetah, lay around and lick your paws more.

Last edited by carleton; 12-28-12 at 12:42 PM.
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Old 12-28-12, 12:46 PM   #14
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In that situation in round one, instead of climbing into turn 4, I think Hoy would have been better off moderately accelerating forward, then strafing across the back straight up to the blue line or higher. This would have kept him from the disadvantage of climbing into turn 4 as well as forcing Bos over the top which would have not granted him so much instant acceleration from the full-on dive.
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Old 12-28-12, 01:27 PM   #15
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Yes, small men can sprint. There are some disadvantages (you are down on power) but there are upsides (you are light so repeated accelerations aren't as sapping, plus you can be more aerodynamic). Like every racer, you have some advantages and disadvantages:

1) the bigger cyclists with more power will have an advantage over you, particularly in shorter events with a standing start, like the kilo
2) being lighter, you will have an advantage over a bigger cyclist in longer endurance events where repeated flying starts for sprints are the norm, like the points or Madison
3) because bigger cyclists have a smaller relative surface area so cannot dissipate heat as quickly, the hotter it is the relatively greater your advantage will be, especially if you are racing a lot

If you don't have a natural power advantage, you can focus on other areas to compensate, especially physical and mental preparation (read, train hard and believe in yourself). Adopt tactics that suit you and apply them to your racing; e.g. the big guys have more inertia so take more effort to get to speed; can you learn to spot when they are slowing or hesitating and get a jump on them?

Picking the disciplines that work for you, and using tactics that force the other riders to ride your way is a sure way to being competitive.
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Old 12-28-12, 03:14 PM   #16
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I'm 5' 1" and growing slowly but surely. My friend said all good sprinters are 200lb and I'm only 90-95lb. He really destroyed my confidence because the sad part is, he is a fat fart (180+), I'm in great shape, and he still knows how to smash it harder than me. Do you guys know anyone "small" that knows how to really smash it? Any tips for us small guys, or should I just pack my bags and go home? Please shed some light on me.
There will always be the question of mechanical advantage while pedaling; when turning a small lever it is best to use a big lever.

But your light weight would put you at an advantage for cyclo-cross. My niece got into cross at around 9 years old and made state champion by 14. (for her age group)

Her endurance and weight advantage rolls right up short steep hills which slow/stop the big folk.

Off season she started riding mountain bike races and only recently started road racing... but she doesn't like that as much since it is mostly distance while drafting with a sprint to the finish... which doesn't play to her small size advantage.
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Old 12-28-12, 07:00 PM   #17
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Thanks for all the feed back. Does anyone here believe in "Longer legs => More leverage => Faster cyclist"?
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Old 12-28-12, 07:57 PM   #18
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A local friend and FG rider is the fastest guy I know, and also the shortest I know. When we still did coldsprints he kept the best time by a large margin.

Just keep riding and pushing yourself to the next level.
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Old 01-01-13, 10:32 PM   #19
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Wes Pierce is small, and is very, VERY fast.
Multi-time national champion in the traditional "big guy" disciplines of short TTs and sprint.

It can be done, doing it is the hard part.
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Old 01-02-13, 02:14 AM   #20
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Mark Cavendish has short legs...
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Old 01-08-13, 12:22 PM   #21
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Thanks for all the feed back. Does anyone here believe in "Longer legs => More leverage => Faster cyclist"?
This is intuitive and, in my old sport of rowing, fact. Long arms and legs guarantees a longer stroke, which keeps the boat accelerating for longer.

But in cycling the intuitive conclusion isn't right. Longer limbs mean taller cyclists mean a universally larger frontal area to push through the air in sprints so it is better to be compact than gangly. Also, the longer legs mean a longer stroke, and if you look at the way car engines are built, long-stroke engines produce more torque but lower top-end horsepower at lower revolutions. It's exactly the same physics in cycling, where a tall gangly cyclocrosser can torque their way up a muddy 20% hill well ahead, but a guy like Cavendish can wind up to 140 rpm (or whatever he can hit) and streak away from the others on the flat.

If you are interested, the reason why rowing is different is because the main drag factor is water, not air, and a tall thin lighter rower creates less drag than a short, powerful heavier one.
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Old 01-08-13, 03:17 PM   #22
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I'm pretty sure that bigger limiters to good athletic performance are VO2max and aerobic capacity, not height.
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Old 01-09-13, 08:37 AM   #23
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... all good sprinters are 200lb ...
Track sprinter (Chris Hoy)? Or pro peleton sprinter (Cavendish)?

Yeah, the track guys tend to be bigger. But, for the most part, they aren't giants. Chris Hoy is 6'1" and 200lbs. Grégory Baugé is 6' and 180lbs. Jason Kenny is 5'10" and 180lbs.

The pro peleton sprinters are bigger than the climbers, but still not large people. Cavendish is 5'9" and 150lbs. Mario Cipollini is a bit over 6' and 175lbs. Peter Sagan is 6' and 160lbs. Andre Greipel is 6' and 180lbs.

And Cavendish got his start in the velodrome. As did current Tour de France champ Brad Wiggins.
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Old 01-22-13, 06:38 AM   #24
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I was taught in match sprints that you always look over your down track shoulder. In the first round Hoy gets caught looking the wrong way and Bos jumps it perfect.
Is this true? What if you're riding on the apron or in the sprinter's lane? An attack can only gonna come from your right, from up the track.
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