Saturday, February 03, 2007

How To - Working on sprinting

Inevitably people ask me about sprint workouts. There are a lot of different ideas floating around out there and many of them do help with your sprint. For me, though, sprint workouts should include a few things:
1. Fun
2. Speed and a feeling of going really fast
3. Optimize maximum speed

Doing 100% all out efforts is not easy. I no longer have the mental gumption to do anything really hard that lasts longer than, say, a minute. Sprinting is fun for me and therefore I enjoy doing sprint workouts, I don't get burnt out, and I don't mind exerting myself for the 30-60 seconds necessary for a sprint.

The only thing is that the workouts don't seem right if you don't finish an effort and say "Boy was I flying!". Maybe you're working on going faster so you're thinking, "Boy I wish I was a bit faster!" That's fine. But if you finish an effort and think, "I really think I should have been able to beat that guy on the Huffy with flat tires riding to work" then maybe it's time to take a break and do the workout a different day.

The most important part of sprinting, and a thing that I've never seen mentioned anywhere, is that you absolutely have to work on increasing your maximum speed. It can be on a flat road or one that's very slightly downhill, but you have to increase your maximum speed.

Max speed not only helps your sprint but it also makes any other racing incrementally easier. If your max speed is 31 mph and an attack goes off at 35 mph, you'll be in trouble. If your max speed is 37 mph, you'll be hanging on for dear life. But if it's 42 mph you'll easily manage a 35 mph attack.


Please keep in mind that these workouts should be done by riders after they've gotten cleared by their doctors. Also, although everyone can increase their max speed, you will not be able to transform a non-sprinting rider into a pure sprinter. It takes more to beat a pure sprinter than just sprinting against them head to head.

Determine Maximum Optimal Sprint Speed

My favorite jump/sprint workout (after you've warmed up and are sweating a bit) is to find a slight (1-5%) downhill followed by a flat section the length you require for a sprint (at least 200m). Use the downhill as your "leadout" and jump as hard as possible at your start point (on the flat). Try doing this in a cross/tail wind and keep track of your max speeds. As an alternative to the downhill, draft large motorized vehicles to help bring you up to speed. This speed will be your maximum optimal sprint speed (MOSS).

Hey I made up an acronym!

You can do these sprints weekly to keep track of your MOSS (say 3-10 times on the day you do it). Twice a week might be maximum, otherwise you end up just overdoing it. You'll find the speeds creeping up naturally.

As a "normal" racer, i.e. a Cat 3-5, your minimum MOSS should be 31-32 mph. In other words, you really, really need to hit that speed. It's better if you can hit 35-38 mph and you'll probably find yourself at that speed as a late Cat5 or a new Cat 4. And if you can break 40-42 mph, you're in Cat 3 race placing territory. 44-46 mph will win you races. Remember, this is an "optimal" sprint, one where you're relatively fresh and have a perfect "leadout".

Once you get an idea of your MOSS in the workout above, do some other types of sprint workouts to try and increase your MOSS.

Alternate Gear Sprint Workout

Sprint from a rolling start up to your maximum speed and alternate gears high and low. Try alternating between a 53x14 and 53x17 for starters (I think that will be the lowest pair of gears usable - whatever pair you use, you should have a 3-4 tooth gap for your two gears). You'll think the easy gear is easy when you first start the workout, but as your legs fatigue, you'll really be jonesing for the big gear interval - the little gear is so hard to spin fluently once fatigued. (Note: this is why roadies sprint in big gears and trackies sprint in little gears).

The alternating gear workout helps you learn the difference between "pushing" and "spinning". Since this is not an optimal speed workout, you may not hit your max speeds, even in the bigger gears. This is normal - I find myself losing about 10-15% of my top end speed.

Group Sprint Workout

The best sprint workouts I ever got was a Tues night sprint ride at a local university on a 2 mile loop (SUNY Purchase for those in the NYC area). Approximately 50-150 riders of all levels (up to Cat 1, national team riders - Jessica Greico was probably the best known racer who regularly showed up) would show up for 2-3 hours. Approx 1km-long committed leadouts (started on a 200 meter slight downhill followed by an undulated 800-1000 meters) by numerous leadout riders meant the leadout would typically hit 35-38 mph on a slow day and 40+mph on a fast day.

The top speeds I observed were typically 42-46 mph on the 200m slight downgrade to the line. 15-20 sprints really cooked your legs and I learned a lot of tactics and techniques on sprinting by doing these sprints. I learned that if you have the power, you can jump really hard even if you're going really fast already. I also learned that you can fake-jump hard enough to draw out non-sprinters one or two times, then sprint for real. Finally I got to work on my bike throw a lot.

Group sprint workouts are motivating, fun, and slightly dangerous. With the fun and competitiveness of group sprints, you also end up with a chance of either accidents or poor riders causing problems. Keep your head up and remember it's not a race, even though you might be sprinting as if it were one.

Urban Sprint Workout

Another workout is the "urban sprint workout". I personally enjoy sprinting with cars in city traffic. Pick a loop that has all one-way traffic (or median'ed roads so there is no one driving towards you). I have a favorite 2 mile loop and the speed limit is 30 or 35 mph which means drivers go 35-40 mph. This is perfect for motorpacing up to my jump point, 200 meters from a nice crosswalk.

My sprint speed varies wildly with traffic, wind, and my legs - it may be as low as 34 mph and as high as 48 mph (well, on one day I hit that mark a few times). Doing this workout with friends is more consistent since they're on bikes and it's easier to hold their wheels. But doing it alone is fine. Trucks are a rare treat so they receive the most magnetic drafting attention possible.

When I worked in NYC going up and down the large Avenues was a real treat. Synchronized lights, some semblence of awareness of cyclists, and everyone driving 35 mph or so.

Group Rides (with sprint lines)

Many group rides have one or two sprint lines incorporated into the route. These are excellent places to practice sprinting for a number of reasons:
1. Lots of riders, many of whom you don't really know.
2. Only one chance at each line.
3. Natural variables like wind, temperature, pack riding patterns subtlely alter the demands of the sprint.
4. Natural competition.
Group rides are like races because you don't know everyone (and their habits), you have only one chance at the line, a lot of people want to beat you, and you won't know the conditions at the sprint till you get there.

I do one group ride only for its sprints. Sometimes I'm on my own (no teammates), sometimes I have friends or allies (teammates or simply allies), but I suffer like a dog to be able to contest the first sprint. To be completely frank, I rarely make it with the group to the second sprint. Therefore the first sprint is the one I pinpoint.

It's a real treat when someone you don't necessarily know too well decides to lead you out. It's even better when that rider is far better than you. One sprint that I particularly liked was in NY when one guy (Ray Diaz, one tough racer, second from left in this picture) tried to lead out his less experienced teammate. I heard them talking a bit, Ray was pointing at the riders to watch, so I figured they'd be a good leadout. With 500 meters to go I managed to squirm my way onto Ray's wheel and he looked back, read the scene (me on his wheel, his buddy on mine) and decided to keep the leadout going. This was awesome!

The only problem was that Ray wasn't ramping up the speed the way I preferred. I love sprints where I'm being led out at 40+ mph, where it's a struggle just to hang onto the wheel in front. It makes the actual sprint a lot more decisive. Ray's leadout didn't seem like one of these. In his defense, this was a mid-ride sprint and there are a couple false flats immediately after the sprint that are leg breakers right after a hard effort.

I figured that since I wasn't his teammate (and Ray's teammate was on my wheel), Ray would keep the speed a little lower and force me to jump early (and lead out his teammate). It worked. I got worried that we'd get swarmed and started to ride a bit to his side, trying to ride as "wide" as possible, drawing my front wheel to his bottom bracket area. After sitting there for about 5 seconds, I decided I had to go (after all I had very little benefit from the draft and I was actually helping those behind me). I launched very early, sat up when I had a big gap, and soft pedaled about 100 meters to the line. I didn't contest when one furiously sprinting rider "caught" me at the line - after all, I was satisfied with the gap I opened and my sprint in general, and I was already recovering for the upcoming false flats. To Ray's credit, the group was completely strung out behind me so I was being a bit paranoid on the swarming bit.

Ray rode up to me afterwards. He was grinning (it seems like everyone involved in fun sprints grins afterwards) and told me I could have won if I'd waited. I pointed out I could have pedaled a bit to win the sprint but I had been more concerned with working on field positioning and my actual sprint (the physical bit of sprinting, not the bike throw). I also mentioned that I figured he wasn't ramping up the speed so as to force me to go earlier.

"But I was going 37 mph!" he protested.
"Exactly.. too slow!"
We laughed.

I told him if he'd been holding 40 mph, I would have felt comfortable waiting. 37 mph - well it seemed like a feint to me. I think he thought I was joking, but I wasn't. A couple more mph and no one would have thought about moving up early.

He laughed at my remark and rode up to the front of the group to proceeded to make mincemeat out of everyone's legs, mine included. That was the difference between him and me. While he was at the front merrily pulling away right after a huge effort, I groveled at the back to try and make it to the second sprint. I don't remember anything about that sprint so I am guessing I got popped sometime before it.

By the way I'm a lowly Cat 3 (1 being national level and 5 being beginner) and although I can sprint reasonably well, there are a lot of guys who sprint way better than I do. I mention the speeds because in Cat 3 races, although they may average 25-27 mph for an hour, typically contain short bursts at 36-38 mph to bridge to a break, attacks at up to 42 mph, and generally things are going fast only after we're going over 31 mph.

Anyway, I hope these tips help you with your sprinting.

Oh I forgot one more tip on sprinting.

If you're sprinting against Aki, forget everything he ever said about sprinting.


Anonymous said...


First off, I hope its okay that I ask you a few questions. I assume you have other things to do, so I fully understand if you don't have the time to answer. But I hope you will:) Have been reading your blog since I googled "sprint training", and I love it. Tons of great info!

I have just made the switch from MTB to road bike, and did my first MOSS workout today. Did three sets and hovered around the 60 kph mark, breaking it in my last set with 60.3 kph (37.5 mph). I typically jumped at 50-52 kph in 50-12. It should be noted that this was my third trip on a roadbike, which I bought on Friday (Scott CR1). I have never done any specific sprint training, except for the typical "sprinting for signs" when riding MTB with my friends. Do you think my speeds are good for my first MOSS workout, without any specific sprint training? It should be noted that I was riding with MTB shoes and pedals, a not so tight running jacket and after two days with a lot of training, so I could have gotten an extra kph or so. Not trying to make excuses though, I'm pretty happy with my results.:)

Another thing I noticed was that I struggled to rock my bike from side to side as I see you writes about in your blog and on this forum. I have also noticed that Cavendish does that as well. It just didn't feel natural for me at such high speeds. Have no problem doing this at low speed and lower cadence, like in a climb, but when sprinting on the flats, I struggled. Any tips / pointers?

Finally, will doing a MOSS workout say one or two times a week help me improve my top speed, or should I do other sprint workouts as well?

This was a long comment, but thanks a lot for your time!

Aki said...

First off 60 kph is very good, especially for a first time effort. Many riders start off at closer to 50 kph, 31 mph. I struggle now to break 65 kph (40 mph) and most of my sprints (typically not optimized) seem to max out at about 61-62 kph (38 mph).

Rocking the bike side to side is really easier/better for shorter riders. I ride about a 50 cm frame. I have much taller friends and teammates that do not rock the bike as much. I figure a rider on a 56 or so would still be rocking significantly but someone on a 60-63 would be moving the bike less. Rocking the bike, I found (and need to post) has less to do with angle and more to do with the total left/right movement. The distance stays somewhat consistent from what I can tell. This means that a shorter rider like me will have a significant angle to the frame (from the ground) while a taller rider will have much less of an angle.

For practice on rocking do it in slow motion, big gear. Pretend you're in a slomo replay, do 30 or 50 or whatever rpm.

You should be able to do max speed workouts year round, maybe once a week. I found that I couldn't go hard enough if I tried to do them 2x unless I was already very very fit (June/July/Aug around here).

Top speed has a lot to do with how much force you can apply to the pedals at once. I find that it's a genetic thing. Good sprinters can sprint well with no training, demoralizingly so if one is not a sprinter. Other than practicing the coordination in rocking the bike, shifting just one gear at a time under load, top speed will improve marginally after 4-8 such workouts (i.e. 1-2 months). General fitness will allow you to make harder efforts repeatedly. You'll be able to accelerate longer because you're more fit, but the sprint training itself doesn't necessarily lend itself to improving fitness. Does that make sense?

Thanks for checking out the blog and I hope it helps with your sprinting and such.

Aki said...

A thought on rocking the bike - the rocking is really so that you can pull up on the bars while pushing down on the pedal. It's quite a forceful effort - when I'm fit enough to do more than one or two sprints at a time I find that my abdominal muscles get really sore.

Since you should be pulling up and pushing down (on the other side) you can focus on that.

Also the bike doesn't rock on the tires. I mean it does but the bottom bracket is really the center of the whole thing. The front tire makes a very slight squiggle down the road, the rear following. The bottom bracket travels pretty much in a straight line.

It's impossible to rock the bike without steering it slightly. Therefore the tires do a slight wiggle down the road, but the bottom bracket follows a straight line. Don't consciously steer but be aware that this is what will happen. The tilting will basically handle the steering.

Finally I sometimes frighten myself sprinting because I start trying to think about what I need to be doing, instead of just letting it happen. I've actually stopped sprinting because I can't consciously do everything deliberately; it's more automatic from a combination of learning to ride as a kid (and figuring these things out naturally) and slo mo practice focusing on the basics.

Please feel free to ask questions. I get notified on all comments no matter how old the post and I write this stuff to try and share my knowledge.

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot for a quick and detailed response!

I ride a 56, so I will do some slow motion sprints to work on my rocking and find the optimal technique for me. Will also try to experiment a bit with postions etc when sprinting, getting as low as possible while still generating a lot of power.

What you say makes very much sense, and I appreciate the input from a guy with much more experience and skill than myself.

Regarding the genetics thing, I have always been good at endurance, marathon and such, but also good at sprinting (running 100m, bike sprints), so were my parents, so I guess I have a combination of fast and slow muscle fibers. Ideal for cycling and sprint finishes! I think (and hope) that my 60 kph sprint means that I'm lucky with my genes, but you never know.

Year round bike trainig on the road is difficult for me, as I live in Norway, that means snow from December to March. Biking season is typically April-October.
Any suggestions how I can improve my sprint off season? I do cross country skiing in the winter, combined with weight training. Maybe add in some low rep, max effort weight training for my legs.

Thanks again for your time, much appreciated.

Aki said...

56... look at sprints by Bennati, Museeuw, O'Grady. Those guys are about that size, give or take. They rock a bit less than say Abdujaporov or Cav or McEwen. You can also watch slo mo clips of the Giro (especially in the wet - both Petacchi and Boasson Hagen are spectacular, their rear tires skipping around a bit but they remain in control, Petacchi in the Giro sprint where everyone fell at the line, Boasson Hagen when he won a sprint for Sky I think, maybe 2011 Tour).

For working on sprinting in the off season again it's mainly working on building a good base. I try and get some regular rides in then, in Jan/Feb, I've historically done a big block of training. It's all steady, some jumps here and there, but mainly unstructured. I try and fatigue myself so that I force my body to recruit unused fresh muscles. This takes hours of riding each day. When I start feeling sore in new spots I know I'm accomplishing my goal, to recruit more muscles overall.

What's interesting is that even with no real specific sprint training I can come off of a solid "training camp" like that and have a good sprint. It's because I'm used to being on the bike, used to pedaling, etc.

However you can work on your sprint. Back in the day, I'd do sprint work once a week in the winter. On the trainer it was more either high rpm spins on a fixed gear spin bike (see my YouTube clip on track racing), simply trying to hit max rpm. The other workout was more for teaching myself to suffer, 60s on, couple minutes off. Those efforts were too long to truly sprint but they were good for raising my heart rate.

My best success came from doing group sprints (at SUNY Purchase), where 50-150+ riders would sprint every 4 km or so (2+ mi). We'd each contest 10-20 sprints a night (out of 30 or so), speeds would be spectacular (hitting about 75 kph, 46 mph), and the repetition would really push my limits. They started in May and by July I'd be in "top form", at least for SUNY. I never did well in sprints in races at the time because I was always dropped or jumped too late or something. I wish I had something like that now but I don't.

Aki said...

As far as weights go I never had success with them with my legs. My knees are actually quite fragile so I can't lift much with my legs. Big weights, low reps, that tends to make for big muscles. It might be better to do a plyometric type thing, jumping up onto boxes etc.

If you're able to train indoors without losing your mind (I can) I'd recommend investing in either a motion rollers with resistance or a rocking trainer (like Kurt Kinetic Rock N Roll). I made my Kreitlers into a motion roller set but I have no resistance and I found it a bit unnerving to be out of the saddle, pedaling hard, with glass all around me (my bike room has a lot of mirrors like a gym).

Recently I commissioned someone to weld adapters to my CycleOps Fluid trainer. I hope to have the unit back soon (it's done already, I just have to pick it up). It will allow me to rock the bike on the trainer, with resistance. I hope to do some more vigorous trainer rides with that.

A regular trainer is NOT good for sprint workouts. You end up rocking in reverse, i.e. instead of pulling up on the bar on the side you're pedaling down (pull up on right side of bar when pushing down right pedal), you end up doing the opposite to maintain balance. Regular trainers are only good for track type sprints, seated and higher rpm. Big torque input (i.e. huge jump) just slips the tire on the roller, accelerations need to be somewhat smooth and at high rpm. My sprints tend to be more punchy so a trainer complains by squeaking on every downstroke as the tire slips on the roller. I can only hit about 1000 w on a regular trainer, I can consistently hit 1300-1550 on the road.

Anonymous said...

Once again, thanks! This is really helping me.

I wacthed a few Hushovd sprints (from the days when he was still fast), and he did not rock the bike as much as Cav or McEwen. So you were correct on that issue.

Winter training; I will do a lot of cross country skiing, helps me build stamina, balance and core muscles. Will also do some weight training (less than 5 reps wont give you much bigger muscles, just stronger), and plyometrics as you suggested.

Add in a few high rpm workouts on a trainer and I hope I can break the 65kph/40mph mark next season! And then just keep pushing it.

Anonymous said...

Quick update here, I have only done three specific sprint workouts since my first MOSS, now I'm at 62-63 kph.

Two questions; from time to time I am a bit inconsistent with my "jump speed", sometimes its 53 kph, sometimes 57 kph. This will of course have an impact on my peak speed. How do you do this? And is there a "correct jumping speed"?

To the next season, I am thinking about buying a high profile wheelset, something like the Zipp 404. How much max speed gain could I see when switching from low profile wheels that came with the bike?

Aki said...

Your top speed is pretty good. In the last few years I've been maxed at just under 40 mph so about 64 kph.

As far as jump speed it's not super critical. The idea is to not use all your sprint getting up to 50-55 kph. My current MOSS bit puts me on the straight at only 30 kph (hairpin turn just before) and unfortunately that's where I have to start. If you can basically soft pedal to 50 kph then you're fine.

Since wind resistance increases exponentially you'll reach a similar top speed as you hit your max power, even if you start off a few kph up or down. 10 kph down, okay, now you'll slow. Believe it or not it'll be hard to exceed your current max speed even if you start your sprint a few kph lower because you'll quickly max out your power and that will determine your top speed.

I just put a post up but basically I've realized (again) that body position is the most important thing. If you can get lower on the bike that's the most important thing. However, once you've kind of plateaued with body position then wheels are the next thing.

With wheels I did a series of sprints, not super scientific, but same loop, same bike, almost all the same tires, and a variety of wheels. I found the taller wheels (back then it was pre-404, i.e. the 440) gave me about 10% more speed compared to non-aero wheels. The TriSpokes/HED3 gave me about 15% more speed. It was a MOSS type situation and I was doing 42 mph on box section 28H, 44 mph on shallow rims (Zipp 340, Rev-X), 46 mph on the 440s, and 48 mph on the TriSpoke.

There's no way I can hit those speeds now, even on that same loop (I tried, trust me). I wouldn't necessarily rely on the % numbers but I think that they're somewhat realistic. The sensation you'll get is that you hit the aero wall but somehow the bike keeps going. I'd recommend for general racing about a 60mm rim height. I would guess you'll gain 4 kph minimum. Even if part of that is psychological it's still 4 kph. The math says you'll gain maybe 1 kph but my experience is that you'll gain more.

I already have 60mm wheels. I bought a 90mm rear for 2013 and may consider a 90mm front, but apparently they flex more (I don't know yet).

Weight matters (to me) in acceleration. On paper it doesn't but for me it really affects me. I wish it didn't but it does. I'd recommend trying to stay below 1600g for a wheelset (60mm). I have a set of 1900-2000g wheels and although I desperately want them to be great wheels I have a hard time racing them.

Hope this helps. As usual feel free to ask questions.

Anonymous said...

Thanks! Great and detailed response, as usual.

64kph from a 30kph start is very impressive! From my typical 50-55 kph start you could probably go over 70? Hmmm, guess I have work to do :)

Regarding body position, this is something I will put more focus on. I always try to get low, like Cavendish, but I will get some of my training buddies to video tape me so I can study it in greater detail. As you say wind resistance increases exponentially, so I would guess it is THE most important thing when speeds are above 60 kph, more so than peak watts.

10%? Wow, now I got really interested. Even if the percentage is a little bit off, I would still have nice increase of my max speed.

A 48 mph sprint, amazing. Almost 80kph. I will probably never get close to those speeds myself, but for sure, I will push myself as far as I can.

One more question; what is a good max speed from a 20kph start? Not a MOSS workout, just going all out from a low speed and shifting and spinning until you hit the wall.

Keep ut the good work on the blog BTW, I'm checking it out almost daily, perfect for my morning/afternoon coffee!

Aki said...

Right now I can't break about 64 kph - my max power isn't what it used to be so I hit a wall at about that speed. Basically I could start my sprint pretty slow and hit about the same speed, but if I wanted to work on my sprint I'd want to start off a bit faster, i.e. a MOSS type sprint.

Otherwise I can only do a couple sprints before I'm exhausted. With a MOSS type sprint, after a few once/week workouts, I was doing 10 sprints, and if I was really motivated and fit I was doing 15 or more sprints. However if I started those sprints from a walking pace I'd get about 2-3-4-5 sprints in and be exhausted.

I never really worked on body position intentionally but I did experiment quite a bit with bar position. I found that a lower position feels better, I have more leverage. It's like trying to pick up a heavy weight, like when you're benchpressing. It's much easier to lift the loaded bar from the floor to put it on the bench than it is to pick it up from the bench to put it on the floor.

Likewise I found that raising my bars even 2 cm (FSA Compacts) really affected my jump. Even though I like those bars more I moved back to my regular bars. I'm debating having a different frame made just to gain those 2 cm back (I can't drop the bars any and my headtube is already very short).

You should experiment with whatever you can. I ended up doing a lot of high rpm sprints on a Schwinn exercise bike (DX-900 - I have a clip of some of the spin-ups in my track video). You can see how low I have the bars and given the choice I'd go even lower. I was fortunate enough to have a bike shop full of cast off bars etc so I could really fiddle with my position.

As far as your question re: 20 kph, if/when I get shelled in the Tues Night training races I'll roll around and try to do a sprint before I stop (I have to time it so I don't catch a group etc). I usually start at about 20-25 kph and I'll typically top out at 57-62. I can only do one sprint due to my fatigued legs and low starting speed.

As a disclaimer I've never hit 48 mph since that day. I did hit 46 mph regularly but now I really can't break 40. It's a bit depressing.

Anonymous said...

Do you know why you have gotten slower? Or just something that comes when one gets older?

I figured something in the 60 kph range from a 20kph start would be good, I did about 54-55, but I was using a 50-15 all the way from 20 to 55, happy with that.

I do feel that my stock bike and stem don't allow me to go as low as I would like during a sprint. I think a new stem is in order, something like the Pro Vibe Cavendish stem, 135mm length and -10 deg angle. How imporant is actually stem and bar stiffness when sprinting? Is it noticeable? I will be happy for any stem suggestions that fit my needs.

Aki said...

I think I got slower with age. I started racing at 15 years old, I'm now 45. I noticed a huge decline in speed in the mid-late 30's. My bike is probably more aero, more efficient, etc, but I'm just slower. I was even weaker then - I could bench press about 100-120 lbs, now 160-180 lbs is okay. I weighed 130-140 in my peak years, 103-112 lbs in college (and could accelerate from a dead stop to 42 mph in one gear at that weight).

As far as bars/stems, no, I found that position is more important. My bars are pretty flexible (3ttt Gimondi heat treated aluminum), ditto my stem (Ritchey Road), but it doesn't seem to hurt. I know they're flexible because I tried some stiffer bars/stem (FSA Compact bars, 3T stem) and it was noticeably stiffer, but because the position was wrong I was actually slower.

My stems are all -17 deg so they are flat to the road. My bars are regular drop (so 2 cm lower than a compact bar). The bar reach is 3 cm longer than a compact also, so my drops are kind of down there. There are pictures of the me and my bike from the side here.

Anonymous said...

42 mph from a dead stop in one gear, thats really, really impressive. Seems like I just don't have the kind of jump you have/had, which I wouldn't expect either. I typically do better proportional with the speed, i.e. a slight downhill finish with a high leadout speed is my favourite.

I have seen a video of Cavendish doing sprint training on Youtube, with a leadout and a flat finish, he topped out at 44 mph. I would have though he could sprint up tp about 75kph.

Nice to hear your experiences regadring stem/bars, so I don't have to spend too much money on a really high end super stiff stem.

Aki said...

Cav is very fast, I'm sure that in the same conditions he'd be faster than me. Keep in mind that his top speeds won't be much faster than "regular" very good sprinters. He's very good at the end of a 100 mile stage, but in a non-loaded-up-with-lactic-acid state, i.e. fooling around in a parking lot, I think there'd be other guys that would give him a run for his money.

When you combine the distances, the battle for position, the nerves... now you're talking a totally different story. I've gotten shelled in races while in full shelter of the field because they were going so fast for so long. Cav wouldn't have been shelled, he'd have thought it was business as usual.

Stems/bars are minor. They help but I focus on the frame/fork, wheels, and then the cranks and bars/stem.

Anonymous said...

Good points.

Thanks again for your detailed and helpful answers!

Anonymous said...

Hi again, time to post some more spam here ;)

jk, I just have a little question for you. Since I got my bike last fall, I have done about 15-20 sprint workouts. My MOSS now is typically at 65kph/40mph, from a 50kph start and no wind. If I start my sprint at 60kph, with a very light tailwind (~2mph), I have reached 67.5 kph, or 42 mph. This was however at a slight downhill, about 0.5%.

Other than simply doing more sprints, I have been thinking about what my next step is to improve my performance. There are two things that I can think of:

1. Get a new cassette. I currenly use a 12-30 casssette, so my biggest gear is 50-12. When I start my sprint at 60kph in a 50-12, I don't find it ideal, especially not above 65kph, I would think a 50-11 would suit me better.

2. Like you mentioned earlier, get aero wheels. My current wheelset is Mavic Aksium Race, they are heavy (almost 2kg) and not very stiff. I have been thinking about buying Mavic Cosmic Carbone SL, Zipps are just too expensive for me at the moment.


Aki said...

Well you're doing great with the speed, 40 mph is really good! I did some sprints earlier this year and I'm struggling to get past 35 mph right now, so I'm a bit envious of a 40 mph top speed.

As far as improving your max speed your two ideas are spot on. With a 50x12 you're doing over 120 rpm at 40 mph. With a 50x11 you'll drop 10 rpm. If you got a 53T you'd drop even lower, to about 106 rpm. What this does is it lets you accelerate "again", i.e. try to hit that 120-125 rpm that you can hit in the 50x12.

I used this site for calculations:

Second, aero wheels are pretty significant in top speed efforts. I did my own very unscientific comparison tests, doing sprints on the same course but on different wheels, switching them around to try and get some kind of control for fatigue, wind conditions, etc (it was downtown in a city on a one way road so the wind was pretty consistently favorable). My max speeds ranged from 42 mph (28H box section 280g rims) to 48 mph (Specialized TriSpokes aka HED3). Other speeds included the Zipp 340 (v-profile 38? mm rim) Campy Vento (aluminum V rim, not the current one) 43 mph, Spinergy Rev-X 44-ish, Zipp 440 (58mm V profile rim) 46 mph. The Zipp 340s and 28H box rims accelerated the fastest - I'd hit top speed sooner but I couldn't keep accelerating.

Based on my experiment (it was in the early-mid 90s, I think 1995) I raced on TriSpokes in faster races that didn't have a lot of sharp corners or where I expected a steady fast pace (usually Cat 1-2-3 races). I used the 340s for choppier races where there'd be more accelerations or where the pace would be fast-slow-fast-slow (typically Cat 3 or Cat 3-4 races).

Nowadays the wheels are a bit different. Rims are much heavier, generally speaking, with no real "280g" rim around, and most aero rims are in the 400-500g range. This means they don't accelerate quite as rapidly as the old school wheels.

At the same time they're much more aero so they should go faster. I'm much slower personally so my current speeds don't reflect the bump in speed.

So what does that mean? I think that a reasonably light tall wheelset will give you a couple mph. Not sure exactly how much but figure 2 mph is reasonable, 4 mph might be asking a lot. If the wheel is too heavy you'll spend too much time accelerating it.

If you're racing I'd get tubulars. I'd want to get a set under 1600g, under 1500g if possible, and at least 60 mm tall. My Stinger 6 wheels fit this description, and you should be able to pick them up for $1000 used off of eBay or some of the bike forum classifieds (like slowtwitch, at least if you're in the US). I wanted to buy some speed so I bought a Stinger 7 front (75mm) and Stinger 9 rear (90mm). Those wheels are about the heaviest I'd want, breaking my own 1600g recommendation.

If you go clinchers then light weight is key, followed by aero. The Reynolds 66 or 46 mm wheels pop into mind - they're light and the rims are very strong. I rode a 46mm front in a race, broke a spoke, and still placed. I broke a spoke in a 46mm rear at the beginning of a group ride and did 2.5 hours fine. The street price on the 46s are about $500-700 used, the 66s I really haven't seen many.

I bought a Jet 6/9 front/rear clincher set up but it's so heavy that I almost never use them. I tried them in races, group rides, and solo, and I'm consistently better with the normal box type Ardennes. I learned the hard way that weight does add up after a while.

Hope this helps, ask whatever questions come to mind!

Anonymous said...

Yes, this is very helpful! I can't say enough how much I appreciate your responses, I have learned so much.

I will do some research on a new wheelset. It was very interesting that the Trispokes/HED3s were so fast. Do you recommend this wheelset for my use, ie on flat races and high speed sprinting?

My new goal is to reach 70+kph/44mph in a MOSS situation with favourable conditions (slight downhill or light tailwind), do you think this is realistic with some more training, a 50x11 and aero wheels?

I have also tried to improve on my jump, but would guess that it's more about genetics (not so trainable) than top speed?
That being said, on group rides I often do short, <5 sec sprints against some buddies, one of them is a pretty strong guy. I find it takes me about a second to really get going, and after this I will quickly get a bike length (perhaps 2.5-3 seconds in) on him, more against slower riders.

I don't know how this stacks up though, and while I am starting to get into racing, I won't contest in field sprints before my bike handling skills and experience are better.

But then again, probably not much one can to to improve the initial jump?

Aki said...

I think that 44 mph will be the upper limit with a 50x11. Aero wheels should help you get through the last couple mph, but I don't have a particular recommendation. I do think the TriSpoke/HED3s are among the fastest wheels but they take a while to get going. In races I used a front TriSpoke and a lighter rear wheel to try and get the aero advantage of the wheel (the front wheel affects aero drag about twice as much as the rear) while trying to keep angular momentum (wheel weight) down.

The TriSpokes/HED3s are reasonably light at the rim, not sure exactly how they compare, but it seems they're equivalent to maybe a 450g rim. They're really fun to accelerate because they just keep going.

In 2010 I decided that the wide rims made sense so I made a wholesale change in my wheels. I've built up a quiver of wheels that are all wide. Technically a narrower rim is faster if you use the narrower tire, so a TriSpoke/HED3 with a 21mm tire for example. You lose some control in crosswinds though and I decided to get wheels that I could use all the time without worrying about handling within the field etc.

If I were to buy narrow aero wheels I'd seriously consider a front TriSpoke and a light rear wheel, maybe a Reynolds 46mm or 66mm wheel (20 to 24 spoke). Some federations won't allow a TriSpoke in a mass start race so you should check the rules (12 or 16 spoke minimum).

The Mad Fibers are super light but I don't know how aero they are. I have teammates that have them but I haven't tried them myself.

For wide wheels I personally chose the HEDs. I think they're a good value, they are reasonably light, and the Stinger 6s I got in 2010 have held up well.

My dream wheelsets would be ENVE rimmed but I can't afford them.

Jump is a lot of genetics I think. I always have a jump; other guys never do even when they're super strong. When I came across riders with better jumps than me I could never out jump them, even over a many year period (10-15 years). I could sometimes beat them in sprints but not in the jump.

I tried a lot of things - weights, various intervals, etc, but I couldn't improve my jump substantially. I think it got better only because I was more fit or a bit lighter, but it wasn't like I was finding myself outjumping my stronger-jump rivals.

Once you're okay riding in a group contesting a field sprint isn't too far removed. Maybe the first race or two you may hold back just to be safe but if you're in good position with 200-400m to go (5th-15th spot in the field) there's no reason not to go.

In fact when I started getting involved in the sprints my mentor told me to lead out a sprint or two, just to get a hang of how to get to the front. Leading out usually kills your chances of winning but it allows you to go a bit earlier and therefore not get caught up in the crowded conditions where the sprinters are all waiting for 150-250m to go. It's better to lead out and get 10th than to start 20th and get 10th, in terms of experience.

Once you do a few field sprints you'll have an idea of how you'll do. I have a feeling that you'll do pretty well.

I think that you may benefit from getting larger chainrings. A "mid-compact" 52x36 might be a good compromise. The 52 is almost a 53 but you still keep a 36. I have Praxis cold forged rings and they work really well on my 10s bike, and Praxis offers a mid-compact chainring set.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I really hope a 50x11 and aero wheels will help me crack the 70 kph mark. I think I will buy a used set of Stinger 6 wheels, and then maybe later on get a HED3 front wheel. I have read that the HED3 wheels are not very stiff, but AFAIK they are used in track racing, so they must be stiff enough.

I think I will mainly focus on finishing with the pack on my first races, and progress as my skills get better.

You raise many good points about racing, I have watched all of your videos on Youtube, they are very helpful for a beginner like me.

Regarding the chainring, I will definately move up when I find myself on top of the 50x11. But by then I might want a new, more aggressive bike, with a 53/39. Although I'm gonna miss climbing in the 34x30 :)

Do you find that the frame makes a difference for sprinting? Carbon vs aluminium, stiffness, geometry etc?

Aki said...

Keep in mind the Stinger 6s are wider than most clinchers. Even the "wide" 23mm clinchers are a good 5mm narrower than the Stingers.

For frames I have a strong preference for a stiff frame. I have custom geometry aluminum frames now but a good carbon frame will work great too. My last stock frame was a SystemSix and that was great, it just didn't fit me.

For front end I find a 73 deg HT angle and 43mm rake, combined with a stiff fork and stiff headtube. The Cannondale tapered headtube (with a 1.5" lower race) was the best. My current frames have parallel 1 1/8" bearings and it's good but I would prefer the tapered one. It's just a bit more sure-footed when going 100% out of the saddle (and also in hard corners at speed).

The final thing is I like a shorter chain stay. The 40.5 cm standard (Cannondale) is fine, but once I got my 39 cm stays I got hooked again on the short stays. The last time I had such stays was in 1983-1985 when I had my Basso. It has incredibly short stays, something like 38 cm.

The seat tube angle is related to thigh length and top tube is related to torso length. Wheelbase is dependent on those. Because my quads are short and torso is long I have a 56.5 cm top tube with a 75.5 deg seat tube angle, resulting in a wheelbase that's in the 100.2 cm range. That's technically long but I don't notice it at all.

The HED3 front wheel isn't that stiff, true. When you mentioned that I realized that I sprint a bit differently on it, perhaps because it isn't as stiff. For me I notice the fact that it steers in an aerodynamic sense, more so than a non-aero wheel.

Anonymous said...

I currently ride a 56 Scott CR1, but I think my next bike will be a 54 Cannondale CAAD10. I'm 6ft tall, but I hope that I can fit myself on a 54 frame, I would really like the shorter headtube.

A buddy of mine is getting rid of his Zipp 808s, sp I might pick them up for a good price.

Thanks for your help!

Aki said...

I think you will do this but I'll say it anyway - make sure that the 54 is long enough for you. Aggressive is good but too extreme isn't.

If the length doesn't work out and you're committed to trying the shorter head tube you can consider a custom frame.

As far as the wheels go the 808s would be perfect. Get a low profile front (303?) and you'll have wheels you can use in any conditions.

Anonymous said...

I know. I'll definately take both a 56 and a 54 for a ride before I get one of them. Most likely it will be the 56, but a a 56 CAAD10 still has 2cm shorter headtube than the bike I ride now.

I am also thinking about getting new handlebars, ie Deda Deep with 15cm drop, this will also get me lower when I'm sprinting.

But the most important thing to do is simply do more sprints!