Cav’s Perfect Sprint Technique

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We all know that sprinting is just as much about tactics and timing as it is about the physical ability to turn over the pedals quickly. I wrote down some common sprinting mistakes in an earlier post, but these tips largely refer to the tactical side of things. Once you’ve mastered the timing and tactics, you still need a powerful sprint to take on the dozen other guys you’re contending with. We’ve had a great treat watching Thor and Cav go at it over the past three weeks and there’s some great examples of perfectly executed sprints.

One thing that struck me while watching the battle for the green jersey was seeing Cav’s sprint technique. I’ve rarely noticed such perfect form in a sprinter. Skip to the 2 minute mark in this video below and you’ll see what I mean. Notice the way Cav’s bike rocks perfectly from side to side without the slightest glitch (focus in on his saddle to see this). Thor’s form is pretty damn good too, but note the difference in Cav’s cadence. His high cadence and perfect form gives him an acceleration that allows him to create a massive gap so no one else can get on his wheel. No one has a chance!

You can see Cav rocking his bike from side-to-side during the sprint when he’s out of the saddle. This rocking motion has the bike moving away from the body relative to the downward-moving pedal while that same arm is pulling up on the handlebars. The upper body itself is kept straight on target with no side-to-side movement. Simply put, you are adding force from your arms to the force already being produced by your legs which will result in additional power. It’s difficult to get the timing right while maintaining perfect form so that arm movement and rocking adds to every pedal stroke – especially when you’re standing up at 130rpm.

Note that a track rider’s sprint technique is much different than the one just described.

I read in a recent magazine article that Cav doesn’t do much sprint specific training. He just throws in one or two 300m sprints at the end of most rides. He said that he trains for long 300m sprints (instead of 200m) just so he can be prepared if the situation arises. You can see that in the stage 19 video above Cav jumps at 300m and is able to hold out for that long. Not many people can do this. Also notice that 300m only takes him 20 seconds!

For regular people like us who do need to work on our sprint, here is a great sprint workout that focuses on technique and generating sprint power (from Hunter Allen):

  • 6 x small ring sprints to start – 50 meters each with no gear changes – wind the gears out and stand up focusing on technique. You should be spinning at 120rpm at the finish of these sprints. Rest for about 2-3minutes between each.
  • Then do (3) x Big Ring- one gear change- Jump in the 53:17 from 20mph, and then wind out the gear and shift. Wind out that gear-(110-120rpm) and you are done. Rest for 3-5 minutes between each Big Ring sprint.
  • Then (3) x big ring – From 53:16 at 23mph- 2 gear changes, again winding out each gear. And Finish with 1 x big ring 53:15- from 26-28mph, and jump hard and sprint til you wind out that 53:13 gear! (this last one can be on a slightly downhill grade to help you get up to speed.) One of the goals of this workout is to get you to realize that you do not need to ‘dump’ the chain into the hardest gear for a sprint.
  • Sprinting starts out with a hard jump in a gear that you can turn over. Then as you ‘wind’ out each gear, you shift down one. You ‘work’ down the gears with the rpm’s reach the correct range.

Alternatively, if you want to get quick results and transform yourself into an A-list celebrity like Cav is now, refer to this video:

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