Why can't I sprint?

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stevecassidy
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Why can't I sprint?

Postby stevecassidy » Wed Apr 19, 2017 8:19 pm

So I've been riding with a power meter for a couple of months now and finding it a really useful training tool. The most fascinating thing is seeing the difference between inside and outside - as noted by Alex on his blog I seem to be able to generate a lot more power outside - at least for short periods.

Last week I was looking at my power curve relative to the Andy Coggan table of typical values for different levels of rider. It was good to see that my FTP (3.2W/kg) and 5 minute power (3.77W/kg) put me nicely in the Fair to Moderate range which makes sense for me as a C grade hack. However, my 1 minute power is 5.7W/kg and 15s is 8.8W/kg - which are at or off the bottom of the chart in 'untrained' territory!

So there are a few possible explanations for this.

1. In the last months I might not have done any all out sprints, so the power is in there but I've not released it in any recent rides.

I certainly haven't done much sprinting as such but I've done plenty of punchy climbs where I have tried to put out as much as I can.

2. All my training has been for threshold endurance, there's been no specific sprint training.

I've been doing the Trainerroad Sweet Spot Base and General Build plans which concentrate on time at threshold and VO2Max, so far no short term sprint training. So in this scenario I just need to start some appropriate training efforts to release the short term power.

3. I'm physiologically incapable of sprinting.

This seems unlikely but since I've never been particularly good in a sprint, perhaps there's something lacking somewhere.

This pattern makes sense and matches the way I race - trying to break away rather than waiting for the sprint - but it's clear that if I want to get any results in C grade I need to develop some kind of sprint since that's the way that most races end. However I'm quite surprised at the huge difference between my measured short term power and what I might expect from this table.

So waddyathink? Am I doomed to be a threshold kind of guy or is there a sprinting beast waiting to be released?

Steve
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g-boaf
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Re: Why can't I sprint?

Postby g-boaf » Wed Apr 19, 2017 9:17 pm

I think sprinting is a matter of doing it more and more, and starting from slow speeds in a big gear. At the track, we'd have witches hats laid out at intervals around the track, and you'd come along to the start line and slow down to almost a standstill and then crank it up to the first witches hat, full gas, then ease off, roll around to the start again, and repeat, but to the second one, and so on, until you are going all the way around.

It was hard work, especially on an outdoor track with the wind gusting. Do enough of that and you'll be damn well buggered. It seemed to help.

The only other sprinters I know are track sprinters, and they are in another world again - they are just brutal. :shock:

stevecassidy wrote:2. All my training has been for threshold endurance, there's been no specific sprint training.


I think that's it there. I'm not that good at sprinting either, so there you go.

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Strawburger
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Re: Why can't I sprint?

Postby Strawburger » Wed Apr 19, 2017 10:28 pm

Your muscle composition may not be built for sprinting!

It does take specific practice, but for some people they will never be a sprinter.
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Nikolai
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Re: Why can't I sprint?

Postby Nikolai » Wed Apr 19, 2017 10:48 pm

Looks like you don't have the sprinter's explosive power. That doesn't mean this is the end of it, you will never win a sprint.

With good timing and right circumstances, you can kick 300-500m out, in the saddle, full gas, all or nothing kick. You catch them sleeping and can win a race.

30sec max out intervals might work for you to train this.

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Re: Why can't I sprint?

Postby nickobec » Thu Apr 20, 2017 1:05 am

You don't need huge watts per kg to win C grade sprints, it is more a question of position and timing.

I know, because until last season, I did not believe I have the power or ability to win sprints in C grade. Then I started riding an extra bunch ride a couple times a week, riding with more experienced riders it taught me a lot about position and timing.

I picked up a bunch of placings and a couple of wins including the club championships in C grade from sprints.

To give you the numbers
age 56 (so my fast twitch muscles are deteriorating )
weight 82kg
5 second power 910 watts (up from 840 a year earlier) 10 second power is 900.
1 minute power 500 watts
5 minute power 340 watts
60 minutes 237 watts

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Alex Simmons/RST
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Re: Why can't I sprint?

Postby Alex Simmons/RST » Thu Apr 20, 2017 6:42 am

Peak power capability is very much a function of muscle fibre type composition, crudely put the relative mix of fast and slowtwitch muscle fibres which does vary greatly between individuals. This is by and large an inherited trait. It is possible to estimate your muscle fibre type mix with power data although really knowing requires invasive muscle biopsies (ouch). The latter however is most certainly not necessary for determining performance improvement strategies.

When it comes to sprinting in road and crit races you don't need to be the best of the bunch, just the best of who's left at the end of the race. Sprinting in these races is a craft and the rider with highest peak power is certainly not guaranteed success. It's a matter of practice, learning how to use your unique abilities to win, and to work on those abilities. Track racing is a great way to learn since when you race the track you get lots of opportunities at each race event to finish a bike race and learn good craft, positioning, timing and patience. A good season of track racing can provide more opportunities to practice race finishes than a decade of road racing might.

As to power profiles, that's only reflective of what you have done, not what you might be capable of, so if you have never actually extended yourself across the power-duration spectrum then I wouldn't read too much into it. For instance it's uncommon for many to truly do a maximal effort of ~1-min.

Power profiles have been superseded by power duration models which consider all points along the power-duration spectrum and not just particular points along it, so perhaps look into that if interested but the basic principles are the same.

As to training peak power capability - again this is something very few club level riders seem to do outside of the occasional race and perhaps the local weekend club run with a town sprint sign. That's not going to cut it I'm afraid. Dedicated sprint power training will help but of course one needs to be careful as there are extra risks when doing such training, best to have a safe venue, make sure your equipment is in good order (bars, stem, drivetrain, shoes, pedals and cleats in particular), and it's usually good to do it with a ride buddy in case something goes awry and also for a bit of motivation. There are many drills you can do.

The nature of the metabolic pathways that support short duration high power efforts last from 1 to 30 seconds or so are a complex mix as are the recovery processes, so working out what you are best to work on does require a bit of assessment, although there's no need to over complicate it, a bit of everything is a good idea. The volume, frequency and recovery needs of such training does vary somewhat though.

Whatever you do, keep it fun.

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Re: Why can't I sprint?

Postby g-boaf » Thu Apr 20, 2017 9:08 am

nickobec wrote:5 minute power 340 watts


So, that's what C grade is doing these days? :shock: I know A graders who don't do 5x5 at that power.

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Re: Why can't I sprint?

Postby Strawburger » Thu Apr 20, 2017 10:16 am

g-boaf wrote:
nickobec wrote:5 minute power 340 watts


So, that's what C grade is doing these days? :shock: I know A graders who don't do 5x5 at that power.


It's all relative. Not to bag out nick, he has a few extra kgs than the a graders. The a graders should be doing more like 5.75w/kg and higher. So, nick would be sitting on around 4.2w/kg.

5x5's are different too. Nick's wattage his is maximal, whereas the 5x5's are around 10% less than maximal.
Last edited by Strawburger on Thu Apr 20, 2017 1:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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g-boaf
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Re: Why can't I sprint?

Postby g-boaf » Thu Apr 20, 2017 10:28 am

Strawburger wrote:
g-boaf wrote:
nickobec wrote:5 minute power 340 watts


So, that's what C grade is doing these days? :shock: I know A graders who don't do 5x5 at that power.


It's all relative. Not to bag out nick, he has a few extra kgs than the a graders. The a graders should be doing more like 5.75w/kg and higher. So, nick would be sitting on around 4.5w/kg.

5x5's are different too. Nick's wattage his is maximal, whereas the 5x5's are around 10% less than maximal.


I looked at that number and was rather shocked. :shock: Now I read it again, I see it better.

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Re: Why can't I sprint?

Postby Patt0 » Thu Apr 20, 2017 11:06 am

Also.

Look at the quads of track sprinters and look at the quads of road racers. It would be very inefficient to sling up and down those big quad muscles at 90-100 times per minute for hour or more in a road race.

Pick one.
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Re: Why can't I sprint?

Postby Derny Driver » Thu Apr 20, 2017 1:28 pm

stevecassidy wrote:
2. All my training has been for threshold endurance, there's been no specific sprint training.

Steve

I play tennis and my backhand is terrible ...mind you i havent hit a backhand for 3 years... just wondering what i should do to improve it? Any suggestions?

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Re: Why can't I sprint?

Postby Derny Driver » Thu Apr 20, 2017 1:41 pm

I came to cycling from triathlon and never sprinted in my life. I soon found out if I wanted to win a race or even stay with the bunch when they jumped that i better learn how to.
Every race I won, i won in a sprint. I won more than i was entitled to and against riders with much more power than me.
I reckon I could teach a tortoise to sprint. It just takes longer. But it can be done. Dont use physiology or power numbers as an excuse.
You are not a complete cyclist if you cant sprint, climb and time trial. And if you have a weakness then your competitors will find it and exploit it every week.
Train your weaknesses until they become your strengths.

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Re: Why can't I sprint?

Postby P!N20 » Thu Apr 20, 2017 3:08 pm

Derny Driver wrote:I play tennis and my backhand is terrible ...mind you i havent hit a backhand for 3 years... just wondering what i should do to improve it? Any suggestions?


Throw your racket?

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Re: Why can't I sprint?

Postby stevecassidy » Thu Apr 20, 2017 8:52 pm

Thanks for all the comments, very informative.

It's reassuring to see the numbers from nicobek, I'm not so far behind. I must say the main thing that surprised me was how far to the bottom of the table I was for 1min and 15s power. I know I'm not a sprinter but being classified as 'untrained' stings a bit!

It sounds like there is hope for me with some sprint specific training, I was reasonably sure that would be the case, it's something I've never really done so there is a lot of room to improve my backhand so to speak. I have found that the training I've been doing has helped me get up to the end of the race with something left in the tank, unlike most of my races last year where I arrived at the end totally wasted. I need to work on the positioning and start trying some sprints to see what happens.

Alex Simmons/RST wrote:Whatever you do, keep it fun.


The best advice!

I'm off for a ride tomorrow, I'm going to find a quiet road and give it a go to see what maximal power I can put out over a minute. See if I can push that curve up a bit.

Steve
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Re: Why can't I sprint?

Postby Strawburger » Thu Apr 20, 2017 9:16 pm

Don't worry about your sprint profile steve. The top few brackets are mostly for pro track and road sprinters. Common folk start a lot lower, and lower grades may be off the scales.

As derny / Marcus says, train for it and it will get better. You may not be a true sprinter, but as others have said, you only need to beat the people next to you in the last 200m. That group could be full of poor sprinters!

Personally my sprint profile is poor, I win races by making sure the pure sprinters aren't with me at the end, something you should be able to do too.
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Re: Why can't I sprint?

Postby stevecassidy » Fri Apr 21, 2017 5:22 pm

Well, had a nice ride this morning out to Bobbin Head and tried a couple of times to blast out some power. The results were rather miserable! I did manage to raise my 15s peak to 780W (9.5W/kg) in an effort that peaked at 986W but only managed to last 20s. My second attempt topped out at 780W and lasted about as long.

On the other hand, I did two climbs of Bobbin Head west at 315W and 295W for 10 mins and two of the east side at around 260W so the threshold stuff is working well. Given that my next event is the club TT at Calga in May I'll carry on working on long term power just now. After that I think I'll start doing some sprint specific training to see if I can train that side of things just a bit better.

Steve
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foo on patrol
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Re: Why can't I sprint?

Postby foo on patrol » Fri Apr 21, 2017 6:12 pm

Well, as far as I'm concerned, if you "don't" incorporate any sprint work into your training, then you're not going to improve on a sprint finish. :idea:

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Re: Why can't I sprint?

Postby singlespeedscott » Fri Apr 21, 2017 8:45 pm

Agreed Foo.

I know it's old hat, but I remember from Lemond's old book of cycling, sprints are something that you should be doing twice a week to improve power.

It basically incorporated sprints of 5 sec, 10 sec and 15 sec. anything longer than that and your not sprinting.

I use to do them up hill and was absolutely shagged after an hour. I would do 3 x 5, 3 x 10 and 3 x 15 sec with about 1 min between efforts and 5min between sets. They do work.

Sprinting like this is hard on your bike though and have a few cracked drive side dropouts from it. A track bike or fixed gear is perfect for this stuff.
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Re: Why can't I sprint?

Postby stevecassidy » Tue May 09, 2017 8:22 am

Ok, time trial out of the way (ok but not great, close to my PB but let down on the return leg) so I started some sprint training today.

Started with some big ring climbing on a 2km rolling climb, then on to short sprints from a standing(ish) start. I found a 200m or so section with a small incline and did 3x3 sprints in a reasonable gear with a roll back down between each. I managed three of these sets.

I can certainly say I have a lot to do here. My sprints were awful, the first one in each set wasn't too bad (I sprinted to the end) the others were progressively worse, losing power before the end of the sprint. I don't have the power meter just now (see another thread) so no absolute power numbers yet but I don't think that's too important here.

So, plenty to do, I'll try to do something like this a couple of times a week and see how I improve.

Steve
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Re: Why can't I sprint?

Postby Strawburger » Tue May 09, 2017 9:59 am

From memory, dropping 25% power from first rep to last rep is ok. More than that and you need to have a rest and start the reps again.

My sprint training is 4x15sec three times. So, 12 sprints. With practice you should be able to hold reasonable power throughout the sets.
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Re: Why can't I sprint?

Postby Big Pete 1 » Mon May 29, 2017 8:15 am

Hi Steve.
This may help.
Focus more on cadence. Faster the better.
Most non-racers who sprint focus on pushing a gear that is too big for high cadence. They are wasting time in trying to get that big gear to rotate quickly.
Use the gear which you are using as you are approaching the final kilometer rush with others. Use a gear which has you pedaling about 90-100 rpm with ease (not loose). Then in the final 200 m wind that same gear up as fast as you can spin it.
Give it a try. If you find that you have increased your SPEED (not power) over the finishing line, then that is the new focus to improve on.

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Re: Why can't I sprint?

Postby Derny Driver » Mon May 29, 2017 9:39 am

Big Pete 1 wrote:Hi Steve.
This may help.
Focus more on cadence. Faster the better.
Most non-racers who sprint focus on pushing a gear that is too big for high cadence. They are wasting time in trying to get that big gear to rotate quickly.
Use the gear which you are using as you are approaching the final kilometer rush with others. Use a gear which has you pedaling about 90-100 rpm with ease (not loose). Then in the final 200 m wind that same gear up as fast as you can spin it.
Give it a try. If you find that you have increased your SPEED (not power) over the finishing line, then that is the new focus to improve on.

In the days before Ergo levers, the norm for many racers was to push the downtube shifter fully forward before the sprint, and then try to wind the 13 cog up to speed.
I like to start the sprint in 1 cog larger than the one the bunch is riding on the approach to the sprint. So if we are all riding in the 53-16, I start the sprint in the 15 cog. Rev that out to max cadence and hit 14, rev that and hit 13. That was usually enough to win most races I did.
If you are using a cluster with 2 tooth gaps from 16 down then forget sprinting. Those 11- 40 clusters are $hit for sprinting :D

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Re: Why can't I sprint?

Postby Big Pete 1 » Mon May 29, 2017 11:01 am

Thanks Derny Driver. I do similar. The post for Steve was for him to try and see if spinning a lighter gear would help. If so, he will then work out the best approach for doing that.
I myself could (a few years ago) wind out from a comfortable 95 rpm to 160 rpm. That is, using the same gear at say 35 kph@95 rpm is 59 kph@160rpm. That is good without changing a gear. However, most can wind it out to 140 rpm. In that case it would be 52kph@140 rpm.

Psychology plays a role too. Once I found out that I can spin, in granny gear down a slope, at 180 rpm, I miraculously could spin faster in a sprint than I thought I could.

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Re: Why can't I sprint?

Postby Derny Driver » Mon May 29, 2017 12:03 pm

Big Pete 1 wrote:... most can wind it out to 140 rpm. In that case it would be 52kph@140 rpm.

Cadence is speed. I found that if I wound out the 15 and the 14 to around 135rpm, I could then hit the 13 and hold it at 128-130rpm for about 10 seconds. That's 65-66kph and it takes a pretty fast guy to come over the top of that. A really good sprinter can wind up a bigger gear to a higher top speed but for guys like myself who are really not that strong, then cadence is something that can be practised and works well.
As you have said.

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Re: Why can't I sprint?

Postby stevecassidy » Mon May 29, 2017 5:36 pm

Thanks Pete, I'll try to incorporate some of that. I've been getting a bit better in the sprint exercises I've been doing, a bit more consistent in the reps. up the little hill.

I've done one sprint in a race a few weeks ago at Eastern Creek - this is a downhill sprint for those who don't know it - I followed the wrong wheels so ended up around 10th but it was the first time in a long time I've felt like I was actually part of the sprint not just a spectator.

Not sure I could get up to 160rpm - need some of that psychology stuff...

Steve
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