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choosing a wheel in the sprint

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choosing a wheel in the sprint

Old 03-26-12, 03:49 PM
  #1  
climber7
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choosing a wheel in the sprint

there's a kid in my category who comes in top 5 basically every race. he's won once or twice and he's always right up there. i've noticed that a lot of the time he's well back in the field even near the end of the race. in yesterday's crit, i decided i was going to find his wheel near the end and try to stick on it. i got it with maybe half a lap (3/4 mile) to go, but we were pretty far back in the pack. i wanted to be farther up so i jumped on another wheel and moved up to better position.

he came in 2nd. lesson learned. to be honest, not sure i could have hung on with him anyway, but i bet i at least wouldn't have done any worse by sticking on his wheel.

so for all you sprinters, here's my question: assuming you don't have a teammate leading you out, do you choose a particular wheel in advance or do you just get in good position and wing it? if you choose a wheel, how early do you try to get on it?

i realize there are a lot of variables here, but i'm really trying to work on my finish, so any advice is appreciated.
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Old 03-26-12, 04:32 PM
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I will give you a really well laid out thought when I get my computer open later.
A lot of it is experience and patience.
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Old 03-26-12, 04:38 PM
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Btw what cat are you racing?
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Old 03-26-12, 04:43 PM
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A sprinter will always be able to do well in a sprint. Only in the difficult races will a sprinter be neutralized (hills, wind, small group, etc). A good sprinter will get within range of the front, go when it's best, and hope that their sprint lasts long enough to get to the line.

I don't look for a wheel unless, as you said, I have a teammate leading me out. I look for an area. I look for patterns. I look for holes. Sunday I was on the yellow line going into the sprint (road curves right then left). I was so far back I thought I had to go the far way around (hence yellow line in a long right curve). Then the whole front of the field started crossing over (full road at that point). I looked right, there was a huge hole, I swung right like I was diving into a right turn, got to the curb, and launched up the right side. I rocketed past everyone in the field, and won the field sprint. I passed a few break guys on the way (they realistically started the sprint 30+ meters clear) so I managed to get 7th.

It helps to find a good sprinter to follow but that's assuming you can then pass said sprinter in the sprint. So for example if you got on Cavendish's wheel, that's great, but when he goes now what will you do? I've gotten on superior sprinter's wheels, launched when they launched, and watched them ride away from me. That's what life is like for a non-sprinter, and for me much of the time.

It's best to find those guys that are strong but don't have the race ending sprint. They usually try and get top 6 or so, and they'll go early or whatever to try and get a good place. They know they'll get beat but they'll try it anyway. I don't look for them but often they'll lead out a bit early and if I am there I'll follow.

Ultimately though if you don't have a massive sprint then forget it. Field sprints aren't where it'll be at.

I have a post somewhere in here about how you know if you're a sprinter. A few thoughts come to mind, but the main idea is you constantly think you sprinted when you weren't supposed to sprint because no one else is going fast. So you think you jumped on the wrong lap since everyone shot backwards when you jumped. Or you thought that the group ride wasn't sprinting at the normal spot because when you went everyone else shot backwards. Or you start making stupid long sprints because it doesn't seem fair if you jump at 200m to go, so you go at 300m or 400m or you wait until 75m and try and pass the guys up front in just a few seconds.

In all those situations everyone else is sprinting. You just don't think so because they can't go nearly as fast as you can.

That's when you're a sprinter. If you never thought that then you will need to figure out how to wear down the sprinters.
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Old 03-26-12, 04:52 PM
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Damn you type fast.
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Old 03-26-12, 04:58 PM
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Originally Posted by carpediemracing View Post
If you never thought that then you will need to figure out how to wear down the sprinters.
Fully justifying my 'never sprint' mentality. Most of the people who have it naturally just can't understand that I don't.
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Old 03-26-12, 05:01 PM
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haha, yeah he does. cdr - that's great, thanks. i should probably have said this in the first post but i'm a stereotypical climber. decent power to weight at threshold and VO2max but not much above that. i have all the sprint of a dying snail. i'm just trying to figure out how to do a little better given what i have. even if i'm not going to win, it'd be nice not to lose so many places in the last 400m. not saying i'm gonna sprint for 30th place or anything, but it'd be nice to get 5th instead of 15th some of the time, or even 10th instead of 20th.

rkwaki - thanks in advance. i'm racing collegiate B right now. USAC cat 4. just started racing last spring. did a few collegiate races in cat C plus two stage races over the summer in cat 4/5, upgraded, and i've done all 4 collegiate weekends so far this season in B.
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Old 03-26-12, 05:20 PM
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if I try to mark a particular guy I usually eff myself.

lots of guys want to / can sit back further than I'm comfortable. I'll gas myself trying to hold that one wheel and then fighting my way through the crowd. I'm far more effective taking it on from the top ten on the last lap. I want to hit 250m in the two or three hole. If I'm worried about trying to beat someone specific I'm doing it wrong.
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Old 03-26-12, 05:59 PM
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Originally Posted by gsteinb View Post
If I'm worried about trying to beat someone specific I'm doing it wrong.
That's about it for me. I'm not a "sprinter" but I win sprints out of small groups and can usually finish well in a field sprint. I don't watch a particular rider, I watch the flow and try to play into my strengths.

Originally Posted by climber7 View Post
i have all the sprint of a dying snail. i'm just trying to figure out how to do a little better given what i have.
If you're sitting around till the end, you're doing it wrong. People with a poor sprint should be crawling along with their tongues on the ground in Offthebackistan in the last 500m of a race if it comes down to a field sprint. Otherwise you got a really poor training ride. People should be yelling at you to stop attacking. You should be looking for other snails and getting them to go out on breaks with you.

Dammit son, do something.

Because that's your best chance.
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Old 03-26-12, 06:06 PM
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Originally Posted by carpediemracing View Post
It's best to find those guys that are strong but don't have the race ending sprint. They usually try and get top 6 or so, and they'll go early or whatever to try and get a good place. They know they'll get beat but they'll try it anyway. I don't look for them but often they'll lead out a bit early and if I am there I'll follow.
That's me. I just don't have good top end anymore no matter how hard I work at it, at least in the M45+. So I tend to jump early and wind it up to the line while gsteinb gains at least 2 lengths on me at the finish. I have to hit the holes or the clear path early because I don't have the jump to make one. We'll see what I've got in the M55+ later this spring.
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Old 03-26-12, 06:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Racer Ex View Post
That's about it for me. I'm not a "sprinter" but I win sprints out of small groups and can usually finish well in a field sprint. I don't watch a particular rider, I watch the flow and try to play into my strengths.
yeah, i guess that's pretty much what i'm going for here. except i'm sure i'm even less of a "sprinter."

Originally Posted by Racer Ex View Post
If you're sitting around till the end, you're doing it wrong. People with a poor sprint should be crawling along with their tongues on the ground in Offthebackistan in the last 500m of a race if it comes down to a field sprint. Otherwise you got a really poor training ride. People should be yelling at you to stop attacking. You should be looking for other snails and getting them to go out on breaks with you.

Dammit son, do something.

Because that's your best chance.
even in a flat crit?

i do realize that field sprints are just not a good situation for me, and until this weekend, i was actually trying to attack pretty much every race at some point, but i don't think i was strong enough or smart enough yet for it to work. i'm getting stronger and smarter, so i'm hoping to have some success with that eventually. but it seems to me that even if i'm going to try to avoid field sprints, i should still have some idea of what to do if i find myself in one.
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Old 03-26-12, 06:28 PM
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the answer to 'what I should do in a field sprint' if you're not a sprinter may well be to sit up and coast in at the back. It may be safer. The answer may also be to take a pull in the lead out train for someone on your team. If you have the genetic potential to improve and factor in by all means someone should try and use those situations to that end, otherwise the risk/reward ratio is too high to justify.
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Old 03-26-12, 06:28 PM
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For me, it feels like it is mostly pattern recognition (and maybe because that is a general strength that I have in my life), which, implicitly includes conditions, how I am feeling, etc.
When I am on a course that I know well, I generally know where to be, when to hit it and where to go (and, of course, this can vary by conditions, such as tailwind, headwind, slow
pace, hard pace, who's in the race, number of leadouts, etc). Certainly, anticipation is part of this. I can't explain how I know that someone is going to go left or right or not move, or
slow down, but, I think I must sense a wheel turn, a shoulder dip. the legs turning a bit slower. etc...don't know, but, my vibe is decent. When I am on a course that I don't know too well,
I tend to ask someone who knows the course and how things tend to go (e.g., cdr!!!) and I'll engage/follow some primes to watch for patterns.

Asking the question you asked and listening to the folks above is a great idea -- lots of wisdom, skill and success. Also, watching folks who do it well is a great idea. And, if you believe
you could do better, then try something else and see how it works. Experimentation is key!!! You don't need to feel locked into a particular style. Try different stuff. Now, you may not
do better. But, you'll never know unless you try/test/experiment! Find your strengths.
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Old 03-26-12, 06:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Racer Ex View Post
If you're sitting around till the end, you're doing it wrong. People with a poor sprint should be crawling along with their tongues on the ground in Offthebackistan in the last 500m of a race if it comes down to a field sprint. Otherwise you got a really poor training ride.
easy there

Originally Posted by Racer Ex View Post
You should be looking for other snails and getting them to go out on breaks with you.

Dammit son, do something.
You called?

Originally Posted by climber7 View Post
i do realize that field sprints are just not a good situation for me, and until this weekend, i was actually trying to attack pretty much every race at some point, but i don't think i was strong enough or smart enough yet for it to work. i'm getting stronger and smarter, so i'm hoping to have some success with that eventually. but it seems to me that even if i'm going to try to avoid field sprints, i should still have some idea of what to do if i find myself in one.
personally, i'd sit it out by staying far far back as there are always people trying to sprint for 20th place...

then again, take my response fwiw. i was taken out in a sprint and lost five teeth, my fitness, a few grand, and some of my confidence in just a few seconds. Though most of that has since returned, there's no way i'm gonna find myself in a situation like that. If i'm feeling strong, i'll take a flyer a few miles before the line and treat it as a good VO2max interval, if not, i go to the back and wait for things to settle.

Last edited by echappist; 03-26-12 at 06:55 PM.
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Old 03-26-12, 06:57 PM
  #15  
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Last time I tried the "follow a winning teammates wheel" I was sure he was out of position, boxed in and packing it in. Then, after I had gone left into open space, the road opened up for him (because it always does at that spot on that course) and he sprinted for the win. I think you can learn a lot from watching and following the smart wheels, but you aren't likely to win while doing it.

I'm still learning (and developing) my strengths. I'm definitely not a sprinter now, though it isn't yet clear whether I could become one. Too new, and I haven't worked at it yet. I know that, right now, my strengths are in the 1-5' range, and my only result has been attacking from the gun on a course where the pack-splintering climb was in that range. Sitting in the pack for me equates to pack fodder, and I'd much rather "Emulate Ex" (as in Racer Ex) and at least be a factor in the race outcome. So long as you are willing to accept going OTB as a consequence to a well conceived and hard fought effort, it's also a hell of a lot more fun.

And of course, choosing a particular wheel to follow can get really horrible results if that guy is having an off day, has a mate on the break, etc. It took me two laps of a CR awhile back to realize a guy I had decided to mark was blocking for a teammate off the front. We never did get organized and chase down the break :-(
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Old 03-26-12, 10:10 PM
  #16  
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Well in sharp contrast to many of our other posters all of whom are excellent riders I am somewhat different as I am a group sprinter and love to see that nervous energy that comes on the final lap or final few miles of a race.
Before I can tell you whose wheel to look for or how to pick a wheel to follow I must first throw it back at you, you must understand who you are as a rider (in this particular case). My profile is simple, big guy, huge power and 250 meters max all out in a sprint. This translates into about 10-15 second sprint (estimate). This tells me that I need to understand where I will truly sprint from when hitting the finish. Once I know this having the patience to start to sprint is much easier as I know where my "start line" is.
As many have mentioned unless there are big teams in attendance there is rarely going to be enough organization to the sprint to have a true gameplan (i.e. leadouts etc. and though I am not trying to downplay your current category there is even less organization there.
If you want to start to win races or place better it is going to come down to a few things:
1. Last lap, last corner positioning
2. Patience
3. Awareness
4. Luck

1. Generally speaking if it is a crit and you are in the top 10 spots coming out of the last corner your are going to place well it is making sure that you are in this position that is going to help. Work your way to that position throughout the last couple of laps and when you are there get ready for the surges that will come. You can be guaranteed that there will be a train coming up one of the sides of the field on the last lap, anticipate it and position yourself not in the group that is at the front at the start of the last lap but on the train that is coming though. This will help you get there. Lesson 1, anticipate the movement in the field.

2. Patience, this goes hand in hand with the point above. Watch Cavendish and his patience, he knows exactly where his "start" point is and waits until there to go, you need to find out what this spot is for you and use it as a trigger. Stay calm and have the confidence in yourself to go at that point. Once you commit to the sprint bury yourself, have the confidence in your ability to get there and don't look back. Often I have beat guys who simply didn't have this confidence in themselves and gave up too easy.

3. Awareness - also goes with #1, watch the guys in the field to get a sense of their energy. Try to read the field as well, do they chase down everything, how long until they give chase, who is chasing, watch guys who are going for primes, who is talking in the field, are there any big teams, are there teams with lots of riders, etc. Try to understand the field and it will tell you plenty. Also watch for sketchy riders that my put you in a bad place on the last lap. As you head into corners 3 and 4 (assuming a four corner crit) leave yourself a little extra room should there be a crash. You can work super hard in training and all race only to have it ruined b someone going down in front of you on the last corner.

4. Luck - no matter what you need some of this.

Finally you want to be a better sprinter then train like a better sprinter both mentally and physically. Being a sprinter requires a tin of mental fortitude as it has both its ups and downs. Envision yourself at the front taking that last corner, replay your sprint over and over in your head.
Train for the sprint with short intervals, long intervals, cornering and off bike work.

Like Ex said get off your butt and do something. As you have only raced for a short period push yourself to try something, if you fail that is ok you may surprise yourself.
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Old 03-26-12, 11:29 PM
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Originally Posted by climber7 View Post
even in a flat crit?
I've been in breaks that lapped the field on numerous occasions in flat crits, sometimes on big wide open courses. Sometimes multiple times. I've lapped most of the field solo. Granted, I can TT well, but if you can find the right mix and the right moment, you never know.

As Gs noted if I'm on a team that has a sprinter, and it's obvious that the race is going to end in a field sprint, I'll pick my guy up and give him a lead out. Assuming you're not the only guy in your school you might want to explore this...I actually enjoy drooping my guy off and seeing a long single file line of people behind me. Plus it makes things safer and I get a nice interval out of the deal.

Originally Posted by gsteinb View Post
If you have the genetic potential to improve and factor in by all means someone should try and use those situations to that end, otherwise the risk/reward ratio is too high to justify.
Ayup.
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Old 03-27-12, 02:40 AM
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Interesting thread. I'm new to racing but have ridden for years with a buddy of mine who used to be a track sprinter, good enough to be considered for the England squad, and that is sufficient for me to know that sprinting was never going to be my game. Sitting on his wheel and trying to go past him at the end is ridiculous, however fat and out of shape he is he just turns himself inside out for 5-10 seconds and is gone. He's all fast-twitch, while I could barely sprint out of sight on a dark night, and no amount of training is going to turn one of us into the other.
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Old 03-27-12, 04:10 AM
  #19  
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Good to note that track sprinting doesn't necessarily translate to being a road sprinter. Cavendish has won world championships in endurance events on the track. Chris Hoy doesn't race road. Before he moved away my lead out guy was a track national champion (sprint).
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Old 03-27-12, 04:58 AM
  #20  
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Originally Posted by rkwaki View Post
Damn you type fast.
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Old 03-27-12, 06:44 AM
  #21  
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Good stuff, rkwaki.

Originally Posted by rkwaki View Post
Once you commit to the sprint bury yourself, have the confidence in your ability to get there and don't look back. Often I have beat guys who simply didn't have this confidence in themselves and gave up too easy.
I have won a LOT of sprints by winning the staredown at the end. You know, you're on the front of the sprint, two of you, going head to head, balls out, staring at each other, in the last 100m. You are pulling ahead little by little, and the other guy gives up. Don't be that guy. Never give up. You never know when the other guy is going to run out of gas. Balls out to the line with murder on your face.
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Old 03-27-12, 06:53 AM
  #22  
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I think rkwaki hit most of the high points.

I have a pretty solid sprint and my coach always tells me to be in the top 5 coming out of the last turn if I want to have any shot at winning. His point is that even if I can outsprint most guys in the field, it's going to be nearly impossible to pass 9 guys to the finish.
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Old 03-27-12, 07:02 AM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by gsteinb View Post
Good to note that track sprinting doesn't necessarily translate to being a road sprinter. Cavendish has won world championships in endurance events on the track. Chris Hoy doesn't race road. Before he moved away my lead out guy was a track national champion (sprint).
And, FWIW, with a 5" power over 1600W, I've never won a field sprint. I've never finished with that kind of power, and I don't seem to make the right decisions in the final 300m.
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Old 03-27-12, 07:37 AM
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Originally Posted by climber7 View Post
even in a flat crit?
Flat crits are hard on pure sprinters. Crits where I can coast for 30-45 seconds every lap (i.e. Bethel, New Britain, some others) favor me.
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Old 03-27-12, 08:56 AM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by carpediemracing View Post

It helps to find a good sprinter to follow but that's assuming you can then pass said sprinter in the sprint. So for example if you got on Cavendish's wheel, that's great, but when he goes now what will you do? I've gotten on superior sprinter's wheels, launched when they launched, and watched them ride away from me. That's what life is like for a non-sprinter, and for me much of the time.
True. This happened to a teammate recently. He got on the fast guy's wheel for primes & the finish. The fast guy won all three and my teammate got 2nd and 3rd. Good, but not great.
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