With a peak power PR over 2,200 watts and years of experience at the toughest criteriums in the USA, Team Clif Bar Racing’s Pete Morris knows how to sprint. While you may not have a 2,000-watt sprint, Pete’s simple technique tips from Episode 185 of the Ask a Cycling Coach Podcast will help any cyclist increase their peak power.
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1. Create a Circle of Power
Inefficient power transfer during a sprint is a problem many cyclists have but may not realize. Usually this is manifest by a “noodly” or “wild” sprint technique, with too much energy going into excessive bike or body movement rather than going directly into the pedals.
Pete’s solution for this is to create a stable platform for sprinting. He starts this by cocking his wrists (slightly curling the hands in and wrists out), letting his elbows move slightly outward into a stronger position, and applying inward force on your bars in such a manner that you feel like you are bending your bars inward toward each other. This is what Pete refers to as the “Circle of Power”.
2. Let the Saddle Brush Your Thighs
Another problem many cyclists have is finding the fore and aft balance point while sprinting, which usually causes the back wheel to lift into the air. In many cases, this is because cyclists are putting too much attention on maintaining a low upper body. While this is aerodynamically efficient, it can easily rob you of peak power and worse yet, cause a crash.
To check if you are in the proper position, the tip of your saddle should just barely brush the back of your thighs while the bike goes side to side.
As you get more comfortable, feel free to lower yourself while sprinting. Instead of lowering just your upper body and throwing off your balance, try lowering your entire body so your saddle still brushes your thighs, but you are in a lower, more crouched position.
3. Use Opposing Tension
Sprinters are famous for wagging their bike side to side, but excessive wagging only robs you of efficiency. The reason the bike moves side to side is to allow you to put more force into the pedals and carry the force evenly from one half of the pedal stroke to the other.
The reason this wagging happens is due applying opposing pressure through your handlebars and pedals. What this means is while your left foot is at its point of peak force in the pedal stroke (about the 1:00 – 2:00 position), you will also be applying peak force on the right handlebar by pulling upward. As you move closer to 5:00 and 6:00, you transition to doing the same motion, but mirrored to your right side.
If you aren’t matching the peak force of your leg with peak force of the opposing arm, you are missing out on peak power output. Interestingly, this can be manifest in two opposing ways – either your bike will not be wagging side to side at all, or it will be doing so excessively. When it’s matched well, there will be lateral movement, but it will be minimal. As you improve your technique and strength, it’s likely that your lateral movement will decrease.
4. Perfect Practice Makes Perfect
Faster sprinting is as much about technique as it is your ability to produce a lot of force, so practicing technique is key. Because sprinting is a peak-effort activity, fatigue ramps quickly, and with fatigue comes increased difficulty to maintain proper technique.
When employing Pete’s sprinting techniques, only do so as long as you can maintain proper form. If that’s just a pedal stroke or two at first, that’s fine. If you find it difficult to maintain proper technique while putting out peak power, drop your power output down a bit and prioritize technique. With time and practice, your power and speed during a sprint will increase more rapidly as you employ proper technique.
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