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by Matt Rowe
April 13, 2016
Photography by Huw Fairclough
WOMEN'S CYCLING BROUGHT TO YOU BY ORBEA
British track and road cyclists Danielle “Dani” King (Wiggle High5) is showing good form on the road this season. She kicked off her road season early with impressive results in Australia’s Santos Women’s Tour and Cadel Evan’s Great Ocean Road Race. She was always among the top contestants, especially in a sprint finish. King’s got a good jump and it’s something she works on with her coach and fiancé, Matt Rowe. Below, Rowe shares with us how to become a faster sprinter and how to train.
Being able to sprint is critical for just about all racing cyclists. Races are rarely won solo – you are usually up against at least one, but maybe a whole peloton, full of other riders.
That said, you do need to be able to get to the finish of a road race or long event in order for your sprint to be of any value. It’s the mixture of speed and endurance which make the optimum cyclist – the balance of which, depends on a number of factors including your natural physical makeup, i.e. are you made up of more fast or slow-twitch muscle fibers?
To illustrate, track sprint cyclists can have around 80% fast-twitch muscle and 20% slow-twitch, making them well-suited to short, but very fast, efforts. Long distance road cyclists on the other hand, i.e. some Tour de France riders, can have up to 80% slow-twitch muscle fibers with only 20% fast twitch.
We are not all natural sprinters, however we all have some fast-twitch muscle fibers, which are primarily what we use when sprinting. A few points on fast-twitch fibers:
Conversely, it’s the body’s slow-twitch muscle fibers that are used during long, steady efforts. A few points on slow-twitch fibers:
Lets bring the concept of fast and slow-twitch muscle fibers to life
You’re riding a 100-mile sportive with a group of friends. At the start, you are likely to set off at a moderate pace (likely in zone 2), where you will be using your slow-twitch muscles, which can sustain force for an extended period of time, but are not able to generate a significant amount of force, i.e. ideal for the start of a sportive.
At some point in the event, you will want to put an effort in, whether that be up a climb, or towards the end in a sprint finish – this is where your fast-twitch muscle fibers come in. Your fast-twitch muscle’s will allow you to produce those surges of power, which gives you the increased speed – although it comes at a cost. That cost is lactic acid. The key is to increase the maximum power that you can produce, before the point when lactic acid totally consumes your legs. This is achieved by increasing your strength and then power. Your increased power then needs to be turned in to something tangible – speed! After all, the aim of the game here is to travel faster on your bike.
Dani King sprinting away from her teammates
Here are a few tips on developing your fast-twitch muscles, and helping with your top end speed on a bike:
A typical training session to make you a faster sprinter:
Here is a typical sprint session amongst the pro peloton, the principles of which apply right down to grass roots level. Its focus is on developing your speed, making you a faster sprinter.
Good luck and remember, you become good at what you train, so don’t forget to train your sprint if you want to be fast when it counts.