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why does my sprint suck? help!

Old 02-16-09, 03:31 PM
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aicabsolut
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why does my sprint suck? help!

Starting at near the end of last season, I've tried working on my sprint technique, but I'm not making many improvements. For about the first 1.5 seasons of racing (I started cycling in Sept. 2006, first race Feb. 2007), I worked on 1) general fitness, and 2) climbing. I worked a LOT on climbing. I've gone from losing position on climbs in my category to wanting people to get out of my way. I am not so great at accelerating uphill, however, and this is part of why my sprint sucks. We have several races with uphill finishes, and while I can lead the pack over the same hill on every lap, I cannot for the life of me get explosive acceleration (or really any acceleration) uphill to save my life. I can't figure out what gear works. I either spin really fast but am not going fast enough, or I get bogged down in too much resistance that I cannot overcome. My quads just quit.

The same thing is happening on flatter sprint finishes. I've only started working on my sprint off and on since the summer. Some weeks, I can't work on it at all. I have a lesion on the articular cartilage in my right ankle, and sometimes things like sprint drills make me limp around for a couple of weeks. I want to figure out a technique that works for me.

The first race of the season report:

Last weekend, I sucked big time in an uphill sprint finish in the road race. My legs felt pretty heavy most of the race, so I wasn't surprised. I just couldn't go from 200m. I tried picking up the pace at 1km to see if I could hold off others till closer to the line, but they still went at 200m. Then I jumped on a friend's wheel, but she out-jumped me, and I lost the leadout. Then my legs quit, and I was only 2/3 of the way there.

In the crit, I was dropped for a few laps when Navy sent a girl off the front on a suicide mission. I saw 4 women (including another Navy rider) who could be winners follow. The rest of the field was far behind me after about a lap of me chasing, so I continued chasing for a couple more laps till I caught on. I rested up and joined in the rotation. We lapped the main field once and several stragglers a couple times. On the last of 4 points primes, I went for the win, because I'd missed some points during my chase. I waited until maybe 50m then did a slingshot around the others when the road began to crest (the finishing stretch was slightly uphill to slightly downhill). I took the win easily, reaching a top speed of 33.4mph a little bit past the line. Only my lungs felt the pain. I let the group catch me. They let me rest. Racing continued.

Coming into the final sprint, everyone bolted from the final curve (150m?). I was sitting 3rd wheel behind the friend who out-jumped me the day before. I tried to anticipate the jump, but I found myself bogged down in too big of a gear. The other 2 came around. I shifted up one and managed to get my leg speed up enough to where I'd be 4th of 5 in the lead group had 4th place not had such a good bike throw. My top speed was mediocre. That's better than what would've happened 1 yr ago, but it's not good enough.

Some of it must be mental--me thinking I can't make up the gap, or thinking the line is too far away. A lot of it is technique (and fitness, but it's early still). I've dropped my handlebars some since I first started hating my sprint, and that has helped, but I'd like to go lower on my hopefully-soon-to-be-built crit bike.

My thoughts coming to the line were: 1) get lower and farther forward, 2) I feel like I'm yanking my knees up to the handlebars more than I am pushing down, 3) Am I in the wrong gear?, 4) I'm thinking too much.

My thoughts immediately after crossing the line were: 1) dammit, 2) my palms really hurt, 3) I'm going to lose a lung.

What am I doing wrong, and how do I fix it? I asked my friend how she approaches the sprint, and she said that she doesn't worry about it so long as she's in her biggest gear. It would take me forever to spin up if I tried that, and I'd probably injure myself, so I'm looking for alternatives. I'm under a lot of pressure to try to cat-up for the team, so I need to figure this out.

Here's my Garmin data from the crit and a poor picture of my sprint, but it's all I've got (I'm on the right).
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wolfpack crit data.jpg (96.1 KB, 133 views)
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Old 02-16-09, 03:39 PM
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you could work on leg speed by just doing workouts where you try and achieve a really high cadence. Fixed gear riding in the hills has helped me out for this. You can also try plyometrics, i.e. jumping on and off boxes to try and develop a bit more power for these shorter efforts.
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Old 02-16-09, 04:00 PM
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Unfortunately, I can't do anything involving jumping, running, or other impact, because of my injury. I can't even do much lower body weight lifting. The doctors told me my ankle would heal in a few months, but that was years ago. Then they said it was probably as good as it was going to get. The only alternative is a surgery that may not work to transplant cartilage from my knee (and thus, it involves knee AND ankle rehab---no thanks).

I already do some high cadence drills. Downhill, sprint drills with a tailwind, etc. I practice bridging gaps on group rides. I sometimes try to stick with the guys for the town line sprints, but I often get dropped during the lead-out .

Back in the day, I used to be an ok 100m runner and hurdler, so in theory, I should be able to do this, but the chronic injury is now a challenge. I have new wheels that can spin up pretty easily, but something is clearly lacking.
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Old 02-16-09, 04:04 PM
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Yeah, you need to do a sprint workout every week until you get more comfortable with it. Mid-ride sprints aren't going to cut it because they involve other stresses. Doing 20 minutes of sprints is fine before an endurance or tempo ride. Sprint work doesn't take much time at all.

Don't follow the advice to get in the biggest gear. I start all my sprints from ~100rpm, and usually don't shift unless I reach top speed (not spun out, but at the end of my power).

Do some downhill speed sprints. In the middle of the descent, be cruising at 100rpm with a tempo effort on the pedals. Then get out of the saddle and explode. Don't shift, don't stop pedaling, and don't lose contact with the drivetrain.

Do some fast race speed sprints. Go down a hill that will leave you at 25-28 mph at the bottom. Sprint off the bottom of the hill all-out, for 200m.

Do some near-standing starts from a 25mph gear (53-17?). Focus on power all the way around the stroke.

Standing on hills (not sprinting), practice swinging the bike out of the saddle to add power with your arms. You lean towards the leg about to hit the power phase of the stroke, then pull the bars away from that side, as if you're ripping a phone book in half.

You have to grow some fangs. Try to break something on your bike when you sprint. Get pissed. Echo in your head stuff like "you think this is fast, b*tch?" It really needs to be explosive. No pacing at all, every pedal stroke at true 100%. Growl. Let that spit hang off your chin and scare people with your acceleration.
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Old 02-16-09, 04:07 PM
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Couple of thoughts. 1) How much do you work on your sprint in training? Doing some days of 10-12 sprints will help.

2) are you shifting during your sprints? Start in a lower gear and shift up as needed.

3) are you expending too much energy before the finish and not having enough gas at the end ( I'm thinking about the winning the prime sprint and then not doing as well in the final sprint cmment.) Perhaps, more conscious energy conservation during the race, and or raising FTP would help.

4) Power Meter would be really helpful. Some people poo poo racing with a power meter, but this is aperfect example of its usefulness. A) you can see what your 5 second power is in traiing, and adjust trianing, B) you can see how much of that 5 second power you still have at the end of the race, C) you can compare your peak power on that prime sprint and the final sprint and see whether point 3 above is a factor.

Power data would really provide a ton of help (and PT's are on sale at COmpetitive Cyclist now!)

5) Keep at it. Winning sprints is about putting yourself in the right position enough times. Keep finishing up front and you'll figure out how to win your share.
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Old 02-16-09, 04:10 PM
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Oh yeah, a video I posted of McEwan showing a perfect bike swing. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-OOdToL01c
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Old 02-16-09, 04:18 PM
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I am just throwing this out there considering your ankle injury, but could you do some pool workout that might be able to improve your power? I am not sure what this would be, but maybe you could do plyometrics in a pool?
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Old 02-16-09, 04:27 PM
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Originally Posted by merlinextraligh View Post

5) Keep at it. Winning sprints is about putting yourself in the right position enough times. Keep finishing up front and you'll figure out how to win your share.
+1. Sounds like you are working on this already. I like the fact that you give some thought to "who" you are on approaching the finish. Picking the wrong wheel is a death move.

Physically I always relied on a steady diet of Jumps (big gear from low speed) and overspeed. Overspeed is very underrated and the best way to work on it is Motorpacing. Do you have any oppotunities to work behind a Motor?
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Old 02-16-09, 04:29 PM
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Originally Posted by merlinextraligh View Post
Couple of thoughts. 1) How much do you work on your sprint in training? Doing some days of 10-12 sprints will help.

2) are you shifting during your sprints? Start in a lower gear and shift up as needed.

3) are you expending too much energy before the finish and not having enough gas at the end ( I'm thinking about the winning the prime sprint and then not doing as well in the final sprint cmment.) Perhaps, more conscious energy conservation during the race, and or raising FTP would help.

4) Power Meter would be really helpful. Some people poo poo racing with a power meter, but this is aperfect example of its usefulness. A) you can see what your 5 second power is in traiing, and adjust trianing, B) you can see how much of that 5 second power you still have at the end of the race, C) you can compare your peak power on that prime sprint and the final sprint and see whether point 3 above is a factor.

Power data would really provide a ton of help (and PT's are on sale at COmpetitive Cyclist now!)

5) Keep at it. Winning sprints is about putting yourself in the right position enough times. Keep finishing up front and you'll figure out how to win your share.
1) I do sprint workouts occasionally, but I don't think I've ever done that quantity in one workout. Maybe more like 5+. I'll do them when I'm doing laps at Hains and either the wind isn't too horrible or I have some friends helping me. I work on picking up leg speed early and holding it as I shift harder, but the final jump is definitely inside 100m, I think.

2) Yes, usually. In the crit, I wound up jumping, not getting top leg speed fast enough, and then I shifted down. I may have shifted back up near the line, but I don't remember. I just started too heavy by accident. When I practice, sometimes I make this mistake, but I try to stand up and then shift if needed.

3) Maybe. That definitely happened in the road race. My quads were pretty toast on the 2nd to last climb, so I didn't have high expectations for the uphill finish. As for the crit, I don't think the prime sprint got me. It was easy. If I wasted energy, it was in chasing where I should have already been connected with the leaders. I probably wasted energy up the hill on the last lap (Course: turn 1, hill, headwind straight, chicane, final turn, sprint). The leader made a move on the hill, and I panicked, forgot to shift enough, and wound up attacking the hill in a monster gear, climbing it at a very low cadence for me, but I was still about 3mph faster than on other laps and not getting dropped, so I just went with it.

4) I have been doing some power workouts on a CycleOps bike lately (sprinting is too hard, because the thing doesn't move, but I work on quads endurance out of the saddle and seated high cadence drills), but a PT isn't in the budget for a while. I also just shed a ton of weight out of my wheels and am not excited about adding it back in with a PT. But yeah, I know.
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Old 02-16-09, 04:36 PM
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If you are talking about leaning further forward over your bars, I don't know about that. I haven't really studied technique re: weight positioning but I find that I can get more power (i.e. I accelerate faster and harder) with the weight more over the pedals (i.e. not leaning so far forward). I think this makes sense due to the leverage you can put into the pedals this way. Also, (this may not be true for you) but some people aren't "sprinters." That's not to say you can't improve your sprint through practice, but in the pro peleton, you don't see many you can rip a sprint, TT away from a field, AND climb their brains out.
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Old 02-16-09, 04:38 PM
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do you happen to be the one that isnt in the drops?
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Old 02-16-09, 04:41 PM
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Like others have said, the big secret to sprinting that isn't obvious is that you don't start the sprint in a big gear. You don't, say, shift up two gears and then jump - rather, you jump in the gear that you are in and spin it really fast. Say you are cruising toward the line at 90rpm. When you jump, stay in that same gear and spin the legs up to 120+ rpm. Then, if the sprint is long enough, you sit back down and start shifting up to bring your legs back towards 90rpm.

To go fast you need power. You can get power two ways: you can increase the force on the pedals and you can increase the speed of your pedals. For the human body, the way to create explosive force is to go after pedal speed first, because the body is good at applying a little force quickly. That creates the quick acceleration you need to open the gap. The high rpm is not good for muscular efficiency, so if the sprint is longer, after opening up the gap, you get your legs back into the 90-100rpm range so you can apply more force to the pedals more efficiently.
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Old 02-16-09, 04:44 PM
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Originally Posted by seanmdo View Post
If you are talking about leaning further forward over your bars, I don't know about that. I haven't really studied technique re: weight positioning but I find that I can get more power (i.e. I accelerate faster and harder) with the weight more over the pedals (i.e. not leaning so far forward). I think this makes sense due to the leverage you can put into the pedals this way. Also, (this may not be true for you) but some people aren't "sprinters." That's not to say you can't improve your sprint through practice, but in the pro peleton, you don't see many you can rip a sprint, TT away from a field, AND climb their brains out.
There is something to this too. Some people are just not built to sprint.
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Old 02-16-09, 04:44 PM
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From your report and the graph, it looks like at least part of your problem is burning too many matches before the finish - that prime sprint looks pretty badass, if you'd been able to do that at the finish, you might have placed better. I have the same problem, and I can tell you from bitter experience that I would rather win the race and not contest the prime than win a prime and get 2nd in the race! (The prime was a cookie prime and the winner got no cookies, but that's small consolation, I was PISSED).

Also, could it be that you're just not much of an explosive rider? How do you do in TT's? I don't have any answers, I've got a year less experience than you, but it's something to think about. For what it's worth, I think that being able to maintain a steady output of a large amount of power is an awesome talent to have. I'm more of a punchy rider myself, which is nice IF you can make it to the top of that hilltop finish! Good TT/climbing skills are a great thing to cultivate, IMO.
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Old 02-16-09, 04:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Val23708 View Post
do you happen to be the one that isnt in the drops?
Looks to me like she's the only one that IS in the drops!
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Old 02-16-09, 04:48 PM
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Couple of things: Sorry about the ankle thing. That type of injury can be a nightmare, and frankly cycling is NOT a good idea when you have something like that in general. But I am not going to get into the medicine of it. Instead...

Two things, probably both obvious. 1) The person in the middle is seated and low. I assume that is not you. However, when you are talking about a sprint that is on a flat where you could hit 30+ mph, aerodynamics is huge. I have won many races 'sprinting' in a seated position with head low like that. Perhaps work on seated sprint. 2) Save energy. Sounds like you are very active in these races. I know it seems obvious, but a true sprinter knows how to suck wheel. The more you save earlier, the more you will have for the sprint.

Finally, only you will know if your ankle can handle this, but I find high cadence sprints to be quite effective (140+ rpm) if your ankle can take that, then I would seriously work on spin ups and seated high cadence sprints. Your power output will almost ALWAYS be higher with a higher cadence if you can be comfortable with it.

Good luck.
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Old 02-16-09, 04:53 PM
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Originally Posted by waterrockets View Post
Yeah, you need to do a sprint workout every week until you get more comfortable with it. Mid-ride sprints aren't going to cut it because they involve other stresses. Doing 20 minutes of sprints is fine before an endurance or tempo ride. Sprint work doesn't take much time at all.

Don't follow the advice to get in the biggest gear. I start all my sprints from ~100rpm, and usually don't shift unless I reach top speed (not spun out, but at the end of my power).

Do some downhill speed sprints. In the middle of the descent, be cruising at 100rpm with a tempo effort on the pedals. Then get out of the saddle and explode. Don't shift, don't stop pedaling, and don't lose contact with the drivetrain.

Do some fast race speed sprints. Go down a hill that will leave you at 25-28 mph at the bottom. Sprint off the bottom of the hill all-out, for 200m.

Do some near-standing starts from a 25mph gear (53-17?). Focus on power all the way around the stroke.

Standing on hills (not sprinting), practice swinging the bike out of the saddle to add power with your arms. You lean towards the leg about to hit the power phase of the stroke, then pull the bars away from that side, as if you're ripping a phone book in half.

You have to grow some fangs. Try to break something on your bike when you sprint. Get pissed. Echo in your head stuff like "you think this is fast, b*tch?" It really needs to be explosive. No pacing at all, every pedal stroke at true 100%. Growl. Let that spit hang off your chin and scare people with your acceleration.
I don't really have too many hills that are long enough to try a sprint while going down them that also aren't too steep where I wouldn't have the right starting effort on the pedals. I do throw in some sprints after 2 hills on one of my regular routes. These are late-in-the-ride sprints.

One is at the bottom of a 1mi hill. You come around a curve, it flattens out a bit to being slightly uphill, but when the road gets straight, it's dead flat. I will end the hill around 30mph or so, depending on cars at the bottom (parking lot) and wind. I'll be in my next to hardest gear rounding the curve, spin up on the false flat, then shift up and hammer for a marker in the road. Time out of the saddle is still probably under 100m. Should I extend this longer? I thought about doing sprint drills while I was doing hill repeats here last week, but that seemed like overkill for my quads.

Another spot is the town line sprint. You come off a hill where you can definitely go over 30mph easily. At the bottom, it gets windy. After you lose the hill's momentum, then it's over 200m to the line, maybe 300. I try to just hold on and find the right gear here. I can't make it if I try to go around 200m. Sometimes I have to wait till 50m. About 1/2 the time, I guess the wrong gear. I've only been really happy with my sprint here once, and that was when I was able to hold on to my leadout long enough.

Doing a sprints-only or sprints/tempo workout happens when I do laps at Hains Point. I can fit more of these in (with some help from others) when there's more daylight in the evenings. Sometimes, the wind beats me up too badly to do very many sprint efforts, though, unless there's a good tailwind on one side.

As for standing starts, I have done a few of those very slowly (not that far) with friends who were helping me with form, focusing on body position to get more power. The slow start/big gear let them watch me easier. I'm afraid of doing a lot of these where I really go for it. I'm not sure my ankle can take it. Maybe when it's having a good day, I'll try it. I've had a bad few weeks lately, including a lot of pain after the RR, but surprisingly, the crit didn't bother it. How long do you do these? Just until your legs start moving pretty fast, or for longer?

The bike swing boggles my mind, but I am trying to learn how to do it.
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Old 02-16-09, 05:04 PM
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I'm a decent sprinter, and when I have a really sucky sprint it's for 1 reason:

I didn't start in an easy enough gear. If I can't get up to 150+ Rpm in a sprint, I can't hit the 1.2k watt range. If I start too hard, I suck. I have to shift while keeping my cadence flying or I can't do jack.
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Old 02-16-09, 05:13 PM
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Originally Posted by ridethecliche View Post
I'm a decent sprinter, and when I have a really sucky sprint it's for 1 reason:

I didn't start in an easy enough gear. If I can't get up to 150+ Rpm in a sprint, I can't hit the 1.2k watt range. If I start too hard, I suck. I have to shift while keeping my cadence flying or I can't do jack.
That about sums it up for me, too. I'm a total fast twitch guy(think inline 4 vs. V8), so if I don't hit it right in the sweet spot when things get going, then things don't get going as well as they should. I can only compensate and big leg it a certain amount. Sometimes I'm lucky enough to avoid bogging down and get the revs up.
The things I excel at the most are the uphill sprint where I can take advantge of that lower gear/higher cadence, or courses where the final corner is relatively close to the line.
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Old 02-16-09, 05:14 PM
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Working on sprinting:
http://sprinterdellacasa.blogspot.co...sprinting.html

How to do a sprint:
http://sprinterdellacasa.blogspot.co...al-sprint.html

How to throw your bike:
http://sprinterdellacasa.blogspot.co...your-bike.html

Randomly (I feel a bit under the weather so my brain isn't functioning well) -
1. Work on upper body and core. I find that pulling up type exercises (bent over rows, making flying motinos with weights, who knows what the other exercises are called) help. I also found that doing dead lifts (back) help.

2. In training jump at different speeds (meaning rpm). Jump at 70, 90, 110, 130 rpms. You may find one speed better than another. If you can figure out a decent rev (within 20 rpm) then practice jumping from that speed.

3. Shift up as you accelerate. You should be able to shift under 100% power. If you can't, make sure that you can - brifter position on bars (so you can shift), proper drivetrain adjustment, good chain/cassette, straight rings, etc.

4. Figure on sprinting 15, 20, and 30 rpms. Practice those distances on rides. Use terrain and wind to allow your speed to be slightly higher than normal (i.e. slight downhill just before sprint, tailwind, etc).

5. Save energy before the sprint. A good sprint can net you many places. I'm struck at how evenly women sprint - it's a huge drag race to the line, with very little mixing up of the places. I think that if the strongest riders hold back a bit, they could make a huge impact in how the race plays out in the final 200 meters. But that means being fresh enough to do so. I'll sacrifice moving up up to about a lap to go - after that it's a big effort just scrambling to hold position. But fighting for position with 2 laps to go will sap my sprint at the end. Perhaps holding back a bit (for example, I won't go to the front with 1k to go unless I'm working for someone else) would be of benefit.

Hope this helps,
cdr
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Old 02-16-09, 05:15 PM
  #21  
Voodoo76
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Originally Posted by aicabsolut View Post
The bike swing boggles my mind, but I am trying to learn how to do it.
Two problems I've seen most prominently in riders who have problems swinging their bike;

1. Wrists cupped, gripping the bars with the back of your wrist flat gives you a lot more "pull" w/o causing bike control problems.

2. Elbows that are either straight or bent pointing back. You want elbows bent and Wide, pointing to the sides.

Doing these two things allows you to really pull using your arms w/o the movement feeding back into your core. So your cg stays much more steady over the bike that is moving around under you. When you look at the video Waterrockets posted you can really see this.
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Old 02-16-09, 05:22 PM
  #22  
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IM not a racer nore a sprinter and all the advice that was givin was credible [I thought]///Many of the good distance runners couldnt sprint thay had to win by posting a faster time over the distance./Kenneth
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Old 02-16-09, 05:28 PM
  #23  
aicabsolut
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Originally Posted by grolby View Post
From your report and the graph, it looks like at least part of your problem is burning too many matches before the finish - that prime sprint looks pretty badass, if you'd been able to do that at the finish, you might have placed better.

Also, could it be that you're just not much of an explosive rider? How do you do in TT's?
I don't think the prime sprint burned all my matches. It didn't really feel that way. The thing about the prime sprint was that it was my ideal sprint situation. I went for the gamble with that prime, because I had something like 7 laps to recover, I had missed the 1st 2 primes chasing (points through 4th, I was 5th), and I picked up 3rd in the 3rd prime by sucking wheel. I thought I would get out-sprinted on the final lap. I needed to pick up some points. I was sitting 5th heading into the final prime due to the rotation in our break. I just stuck in the draft as the field (gradually) accelerated towards the line, then when the terrain got slightly easier (flatter to downhill), I went for it. It was easy. The legs felt just fine in the group after that. My cadence for the prime was 99rpm. Top cadence was during the 1st surge: 124rpm. Final sprint cadence: 86rpm. Oops.

On the last lap, everyone else wanted to jump right out of the corner. I can't just hold a wheel without jumping myself, and it is too early for me to go. But if I don't go, I'm not going to catch up then either.

As for sprinting not being my forté, that could be it. My best results are in ITTs or more technical crits. I'm sure there's room for improvement. I didn't think I was a climber either, but I've improved a lot there.


DrW, I'm sure sprinting isn't the best for my ankle, but I started cycling because my doctors at the time I was diagnosed told me to ride a bike. The doctors I've seen since then don't seem to have a problem with me cycling and racing. Anyway, my seated sprint isn't horrible. I did that a lot while I was still testing out how the ankle would handle bike racing. I've added in a lot more standing in the last year while managing the injury pretty well. The seated sprint didn't win either. So, my buddies started working on teaching me how to do a big girl sprint.


BTW, I am the one in the drops. I don't know the winner's position, but #2 was in the drops. #3 and #4 are in the pic with me and are on the hoods. I think #4 is standing, but her weight is farther back. She's a good mountain bike racer now racing road. She put out a huge bike throw right after the pic, when I thought I might nip her at the line.
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Old 02-16-09, 05:28 PM
  #24  
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I'm a stocky sprinter and I'm with WR; start my sprints at 100rpms. That means if I'm sitting in the pack cruising at 90rpms, I need to downshift starting the sprint. Those first 5-8 seconds mean everything in the results. In a lower-gear at 100rpms, I can get from 30-38mph, but if I'm in a higher-gear, I'm bogged down and can only get to 35mph. Not to mention the leg-muscles are a lot more spent in the higher gear, giving me a lot less to give for the 2nd-half of the sprint. The RPMs for my sprints look like:

100rpms start sprint
wind up to 130-135rpms
shift, RPMs drop to 115-120rpms
spin it up to 130rpms and hold to finish

Having done a lot of track-racing, I can also pick up a mph or two in the last half by staying tucked and spinning madly after the up-shift. Another exercise that really helps is spin-up drills on downhills. If you can spin 200rpms on teh downhill, you're smooth enough to ensure that all of your energy is going to spinning the pedals at 130rpms rather than bouncing up and down and stretching the crank.

Last edited by DannoXYZ; 02-16-09 at 05:33 PM.
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Old 02-16-09, 05:45 PM
  #25  
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Addendum - bike swing.

The swing is a result of pulling up on the bars (on the downstroke side of the bike) and pushing down on the bars on the upstroke side. Essentially you're holding the bike in place with your hand while you push down. I find the "push down" on the bars is really more of a guiding thing since I don't pull up that hard, but when I feel the need to push down I know that I'm doing a good sprint.

The swing is not an arbitrary thing. You don't do it just because.

The amount of swing is usually relative to the height of the rider. Since most riders are about the same width (i.e. 40-44 cm wide bars), everyone moves their bike side to side about the same amount (a foot?). This means a tall person is perceived as swinging the bike less because their bike tilts less (less severe angle relative to the road), but in reality everyone takes up about the same amount of space. Even the most "wild" bike swingers (Abdu, McEwen, etc) use up about the same amount of road - it's just that they're shorter that their bike swinging looks so radical. I fit in this category.

I realized that tall riders simply don't move their bikes the same relative amount - imagine someone's saddle rocking back and forth four feet! That's what happened when I told my 60-63 cm riding friend how much to swing the bike (this way back when). We later reduced this down to about 2 feet since he ended up using so much energy moving sideways.

You can "work" on the swing by doing it in slow motion at super slow rpms (10-30 rpms) in big gears (53x12). This will allow you (and force you) to experience the different elements of the pedal stroke individually and in great focus. It's fun, I like doing this when warming up and such. Not a lot of pressure, just go real slow. You're going too fast if you can't unclip at any point of the pedal stroke,and put a foot down.

Typical slow rpm movements - if you start with the right foot at 1 o'clock (top of power stroke), the bike would be tilted to the right. In other words your left foot is at the bottom and you can see the left crankarm in whole when you look down. The right crankarm is obscured by your top tube.

You push down with your right foot, pull up with your right hand, kind of like if you were trying to pull on some boots or tight jeans or just simply pulling something with your hand as hard as possible.

Then, as your right foot drops and you're pulling up on the bars, the bike will start to become more level.

(Note: if you're working on your downstroke only, you could literally unclip your left foot and let it dangle... then clip it into the pedal in time for the left pedal downstroke, alternately unclipping a shoe for the upstroke and reclipping it for the down stroke. This will teach you not to push down with your trailing - left in this case - foot, i.e. work against your downstroke)

As you finish your downstroke your right foot is at the bottom, your bars are pulled up as high as you can pull them, and your bike is now tilted to the left. Repeat on left side.

You shouldn't force the swing, it should be a result of the pushing and pulling on the bars and the pedals.

The reason why the swing is helpful is that you have a greater range of motion with your upper body. If you hold your bike rigidly upright (and that does have its merits), your muscles are locked in one position and will fatigue relatively quickly. If you swing the bike, your arm will be alternately extended and contracted, allowing you to recruit all sorts of different muscles.

cdr
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