Cycling workout of the week #12: Sprint mixer - maximise your maximum power [1hr]

Do if… you want to improve your sprinting ability, be that for the finish of a race or to beat your mates to the 30mph sign

Image shows one rider sprinting indoors and another rider sprinting outdoors.
(Image credit: Future)

10 seconds flat out and repeat. This cycling workout focuses on maximum power and also gives you an opportunity to optimise your sprint to make yourself as fast as possible.

Practise different kinds of sprints (from both a technical and a bike handling point of view), and also trial different physiological approaches to sprinting such as opting for a high cycling cadence/fast acceleration and then a lower cadence/higher torque. All of which will help you improve your top-end speed

The workout

To download the session click on the embedded graph above. If you’re not already set up on TrainerDay it’ll ask you to register for an account - it’s free to do so and it’s free to download the session. 

Golden rule

Mix the sprints up; try them seated or try them standing. Sprint at a high RPM with quick, fast accelerations where peak power is almost instant, or do some as low RPM big torque efforts where peak power might not occur straight away. 

Tuck your elbows in or throw the bike around and see how using your arms helps with power and speed. This cycling workout is all about you optimising your sprint to make yourself as fast as possible - have fun with it.

Simply explained

Image shows one rider sprinting indoors and another rider sprinting outdoors.

(Image credit: Future)

Sprinting is all about going as fast as possible, be it to win the race, snap up that prime (mid-race sprint) to win a little extra cash, or get the bragging rights on the local group ride’s sprint for the 30mph sign. It’s all about speed and producing maximum power. This cycling workout can help you achieve your sprint goals as it ensures that you practise how you sprint, how you position yourself on the bike and also what gearing you use. All these elements have an impact on your overall speed. 

Starting with a high cadence in a smaller gear can give you the additional acceleration to get the jump on other riders, whereas a bigger gear/higher torque sprint may ultimately result in a greater overall top speed. Either could be the better option, depending on the scenario, but ensuring that you can produce maximal power with both physiological approaches is where this cycling workout can really help. 

Let’s geek out

Let’s look at the first aspect of a fast sprint: power! Power is made up of two elements: angular velocity (cadence) and torque. To generate greater power, one of these needs to increase with the other either remaining the same or increasing too. 

Doing bigger gear sprints requires more torque and can help recruit more muscle fibres, resulting in greater power production. Higher RPM sprints can help with muscle activation and firing patterns, again resulting in greater power production. There will be a sweet pot for everyone where cadence, speed and overall torque are optimal and that can be discovered via experimenting with different sprinting techniques within this workout. Different situations can also call for different ways of sprinting. For example, a high RPM acceleration whilst staying seated (think Harry Tanfield at Tour de Yorkshire) can result in sufficient acceleration to break the slipstream for other riders to follow as well as being potentially more aero.

Leading us on nicely to the next element of a fast sprint: getting aero! This is easier to achieve outdoors but, with a solid indoorcycling setup with one of the best smart indoor bikes such as a Wattbike Atom or Wahoo Kickr, you can do some very planted sprints. Getting your position on the bike optimised to be more aerodynamic will help greatly with faster sprinting and it’s very important to practise sprinting in an aero position to ensure that you can effectively produce the best power for the lowest drag. We won’t all be able to do the Caleb Ewan position of trying to chin our tyres, but we can maybe get a bit lower. However, we don’t want to compromise sprint power by assuming an extreme position which may also prevent us from riding safely. Marcel Kittel was such a watt monster that being aero didn’t seem to matter so much for him.

Looking for another? How about...

- Cycling workout of the week #1: 20/40s [50 mins]

- Cycling workout of the week #6: 1 min on, 1 min off [45 mins]

- Cycling workout of the week #7: Pick ’n’ Mix [1hr 1 min] 

- Cycling workout of the week #11: Sweetspot block [1hr]

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