How to be a better sprinter

by Jeremy Hunt

How to be a better sprinter
Times have changed since every ride we went on was all about sprinting to various landmarks. Every sprint was different; uphill, downhill, around a bend, up a hill then a flat sprint, you name it. The only thing that mattered was getting to the "line" first, and recovering as fast as possible ready for the next sprint!

Sprinting is a bit of a forgotten art, but one that is very important if you want to do well in races. Sprinting also plays a big part in your skill level on the bike, and understanding the "movement" of your bike.

Here are a few key points that will help you be a better sprinter:

Technique and flow – Learning the correct technique for sprinting is paramount. Your position on the bike is going to allow you to maximise power, while still remaining balanced and in control. Sprinting technique can be practiced at lower speed or while riding up a hill. You need to learn to "dance" your bike. The best place to learn this is on a bit of an uphill. When you stand up out of your saddle, with your hands in the drops, keep your upper body completely still, and move the bike from side to side. As you push through the down phase of your right pedal stroke, you pull up with your right arm, and vice versa with the left side. You want to create a "flow" with your body and bike, a rhythmic action that keeps the upper body still while moving the bike from side to side just using your arms and legs. Pro tip: experiment with your upper body position being lower or higher, more forward or back, and see what feels the most comfortable and powerful for you.

Timing your output based on ability – Understanding your sprinting ability is the key to reaching your sprinting potential. While you train all areas of your cycling, everyone is naturally somewhat different when it comes to sprinting. Some riders need an explosive burst and then their power tails off. Some riders are like a big diesel engine with a long and powerful sprint that takes a while to reach maximum speed. Others can "kick" to accelerate more than once in their sprint. There is no right or wrong way, the trick is understanding your own sprint, and how you can use that to get the best result.

Judging your distances – This is a continuation of sprint timing. Knowing how long of a sprint you can do, based on the circumstances that you’re in, are what will allow you to maximise your sprint. The following are the most essential things to note: Head wind or tail wind, uphill or downhill, fatigued or fresh. These things have to be decided upon before you launch your sprint!

Knowing your limitations – Sprinting has its risks, and you need to understand that. Be aware of the situation you're in, and if things don't feel right then you're probably best off not sprinting. That said, the more you learn about your ability, and the more comfortable you are with your bike and surroundings, the fewer limitations you will have! Staying upright and healthy is the most important thing in cycling, and the thrill of doing a perfect sprint is what will keep bringing you back for more.

Practicing – Practice makes perfect. It’s no secret that the more you practice something, the more proficient you become. Sprinting is about understanding yourself, your bike, and the surrounding environment. Fast thinking, and pulling the trigger on your decision in a split second is what will improve with more practice and experience. Anyone can sprint fast, but following the above points will help you to sprint well.

Sprinting is the most fun aspect of cycling, and nearly every race is won with a sprint - whether it is a sprint finish, or a sprint to break away. Once you fully understand your sprint and how to maximise your sprinting ability, it is probably the most enjoyable thing you can do on the bike.

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