Being able to sprint well at the end of a race is crucial and can be your biggest area of improvement.
Whether you sprint for a race win or for a smaller result, having a good sprint sometimes can be what makes the difference between getting the result that you want or not.
In saying this, it is important that you get to the finish of a race in order for your sprint to be of any value.
At A4-A3 level, where races are shorts with not major climbs, bunch finishes are most common, it’s therefore important that in your training you spend some time on improving your sprinting.
Sprinters are born with more Fast Twitch Muscle Fibres (Type II). Those fibres use anaerobic metabolism (no oxygen) to create energy and get tired easily compared to the Type I, which use aerobic metabolism (oxygen) to create energy.
If you are not naturally fast, you’re not going to turn yourself into the best sprinter in the bunch, but by focusing more on your sprint, your positioning, your timing and your sprinting style improvement can be made.

Here are a few tips to improve your sprinting:

• Improve your strength
To be a good sprinter you need to be strong. Low cadence efforts, heavy gear and gym sessions can help improve your strength.

• Turn strength into power
Introduce explosive efforts in your training such as standing sprints sessions, box jumps in the gym and rolling efforts.

Turn strength into speed (high cadence)
Being strong and explosive is not enough to be a good sprinter; you need to be able to turn the pedals faster with a heavy gear.
To do that, you need to be able to develop the ability to ride at high cadence and to make your muscle fibres more polyvalent and able to switch between low RPM and high RPM (revolution per minute).
It is therefore important to enhance training sessions and training adaptations that ‘transfer’ strength into high cadence.

Improve your sprinting technique
The style of your sprint is essential. It is important to coordinate your upper body with pedalling motion and to have a strong core that keeps your hips stable.
You also need to be strong with the rest of your upper body and use that strength to help you push down into the pedals to reach your maximum power output.
It is also important to always look forward to avoid making mistakes and crashing into somebody.

• Be more aerodynamic
You can gain aerodynamic by buying expensive equipment, but that won’t be as efficient as improving your sprinting style.
The most effective way to sprint is out of the saddle and holding the handlebar on the drops. This allows your body to go lower and be more aerodynamic. It is also important to move your body forward, lowering your head, thinking to put the centre of your mass on your front wheel.
By holding the handlebar on the drops it also allows you to securely hold the bike while producing more grip and force with your upper body.

Start your sprint with the proper gear and change it while sprinting
Start with a lighter gear that allows you to accelerate fast and be more explosive. There is no point in starting with the 53x11 and grinding the gear while losing meters from your competitors.
As you pick up the speed, cadence will rise, and that’s the time to change one gear down at a time to keep your suitable cadence and produce more power output.
As we are all different, it is important to keep a cadence that works best for you.

• Timing
Deciding when to open up your sprint is very important. To do that, you need to have confidence and the experience to know what you are capable of.
There are factors that influence the timing that need to be assessed.
Your legs and how you feel on the day is one factor.
Wind is also essential to consider, with head wind you might want to leave a little bit later to start your sprint, while with tail wind you might want to start a bit earlier.
Road gradient is also another factor to consider in timing your sprint and selecting the gear.

You can have the best power output in the bunch, but if you don’t sprint from the right position you will never win a race.
It is important to stick to the front and hold your position tight. Fighting for position uses lots of energy out and it is important to remember that nobody that win starts their sprint with fresh legs. The actual sprint is the finalisation of work that you created few kilometres before and you might need to do a few other small sprints in order to get into the right position.

Be properly bike fitted
By having a professional bike fitting, your ability to sprint can improve by gaining more confidence, grip, force into the pedals and aerodynamics.

• Include more sprinting sessions in your programme
You need to train and spend time sprinting if you want to improve. Specific sprinting sessions are important as well as deciding when to do those sessions (Example after or before certain type of other sessions).

• Include sprints in the last hour of your long ride
Being able to do 1300W after 30 minutes is not the same as being able to do 1300W after 3.5hrs.
Start to include some sprints in the last hour of your long training ride by working on adaptations that simulate the race. This will help stress your muscle fibres with low glycogen storage.

• Improve your lunge (bike throw)
Races can be won by a few centimetres as well as few hundred meters. In the first case, having a good bike throw can be what makes the difference on winning or losing a race.
As many Irish races come down to a sprint, from a bunch or breakaway, it is vital to work on the lunge. Push arms forward and stretch the back out, moving the bike as far forward as possible.

Matteo Cigala
​Founder and Head Coach