Isn’t A Sprint Just A Sprint?


It’s 6 am on Tuesday the 1st of November.

It’s the morning after Halloween and it was like Beirut around here last night with all the fireworks so I didn’t sleep very well.

Following last nights members webinar I got an email asking me to clarify the difference and outline the different components of a sprint.

First of all lets break the physiological components of a cycling sprint from a sports science perspective.

  • Rate of force development/acceleration
  • Maximal power/velocity

Key factors in sprint performance

The ability and efficiency of your neural system to send and receive the message to contract fast!

The ability to recruit as many muscle motor units as possible in a synchronised fashion.

Lastly when we sprint we use our fast twitch muscle fibres and most people realise this.

What most people don’t realise is that there is actually an order in which fibre types are recruited.

This starts from the slowest to the fastest fibres so in actual fact when we sprint it’s the slow fibres that get recruited first!

The better sprinters are able to recruit the faster fibres quicker and this is where training comes in!

Training should be tailored to meet the demands of your events.

It’s that simple.

In that case what is it you need to improve the most?

When starting a sprint block of training here is what you need to look into if you’re lucky enough to have a power meter in your possession.

Test, test, and test!

Head out the road and complete a number of sprints on a day were you are super fresh and ready to rock.

After a good warm up including a few sprints in a lighter/zippier gear than normal.

Do 1 x 20 second sprint

2 x 12 second sprints

3 x 8 second sprints

All with at least 3 minutes between them to allow for full replenishment of the phosphagen system.

Things to look for?

Ok so you’ve done your session and uploaded your file.

You (and your coach) need to recognise some key variables from the results.

  1. Maximum power reached
  2. Time it takes to reach max power (Go to peak power and note how far into the sprint it took to get there)
  3. Cadence at peak power

Why do we look at these?

Look at the Cav versus Kittlel sprint.

Both extremely effective, yet both completely different in terms of how they’re effective.

Kittle out powers Cavendish in every sprint.

Watts wise I’d say there’s at least 200 watts of power differential (at max) between the two.

Crucially though, Cavendish is undoubtedly quicker at reaching max velocity.

So what does this mean for you?

It means you need to identify what you’re training and what factor needs improving the most?

You can optimise adaptations by not wasting time and training what needs training.

You probably know which one needs improving more by really having a think about it but the testing allows you to monitor how your adapting.


The ability to sprint faster is not something that should be put off until the summer!

If you need to improve it then it needs looking at over the off-season, mudguards and all!

A. Buggle

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