You’ll notice there are a lot of sprints in your Formfinder training sessions. Along with being great for your muscles and all-round development as a cyclist, sprints also help boost your aerobic capacity.
While a lot of sprinting is based on technique, when you’re trying to "let rip" you can at times forget about form and just see what you’re capable of. If you have a power meter, get out and practice and mentally note which sprints you focused on form, and which ones you just unleashed. Compare the power discrepancy and see what is going to work for you.
If you’re relatively new to cycling, you will see drastic improvements in your sprint power in the first year or so. If you've been at it a while and are looking for a bit of a boost, here are some tricks to hone your skills for very short, explosive sprints.
Play around with your gear selection. A lot of sprints in your program are 6 seconds long. It is hard to get a high power using a big gear in such a short amount of time. It is also hard to sustain power in too small a gear, as well. Everyone is built differently, and what works for some, won't work for others. You could be a strong rider whose power climbs for the full sprint duration, with a bigger gear and long wind up. You could be an explosive rider who hits peak power within 2 seconds, then your power progressively drops off. You might be somewhere in the middle.
Spend two to three weeks trialling each different gear selection. For me, during a 6 second sprint I would opt for a 53x16 or 53x17 to get the best power. Some prefer the small ring, with maybe a 39x14 to get on top of the power and speed really quickly. Experiment with the small ring and the upper, and lower end of the cassette, and also with the big ring and the upper, and lower end of the cassette. It will soon become evident which gear ratio allows you to hit the highest 6 second power.
Once you have worked out what gear ratio works best for you, lock that in for the next few months. The more explosive sprinting you do in the same gear, the better you will be able to see your improvements. In time, you will probably need to progress to a bigger gear as you get stronger, but it is a good idea to try the opposite end of what is ideal for you at times, too. Eg. If you're better suited to bigger gear sprinting, do some small gear sprints, and vice-versa.
You might be wondering how these short sprints will translate into a race or a group ride where you will likely start your sprint from a much higher speed. In these cases, you will need to use a bigger gear. You will always need some load under your legs if you intend to sprint from a higher speed. Don't be worried that your sprint training has been done in a smaller gear than you'll use in a race sprint or group ride sprint. The characteristics of what you do on your own – explosive power, cadence, punch – will transfer across to the higher speed and bigger gear sprint that riding in a peloton will bring.
Formfinder tip: Longer sprints will require a bigger gear. It is much easier to put power down if you have some load under your legs.