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Does speed trump position in a sprint?

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Does speed trump position in a sprint?

Old 04-06-20, 02:45 PM
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hrdknox1
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Does speed trump position in a sprint?

Sprinting is an art that primarily depends on your ability to be in the right position, and your speed. With cycling it is hard to determine who actually is the faster sprinter because everyone doesn't start their sprint at the same time. There are guys we know that are fast, but do we know who is the faster (i.e. is Mark Cavendish faster that Caleb Ewing). Being in the right position for the sprint is critical....I get it, but I wish there was more head to head battles like there are on climbs so it can be determined who has the fastest raw speed.
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Old 04-06-20, 03:13 PM
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Too many variables on the road - difficulty of race before hand, slight (up or down) gradient, wind etc. The track is a much more pure venue for your thought experiment but even there the timing and positioning is huge.

Assuming a flat, windless run-in and a race that hasn't been blown apart before hand, I think the bigger muscular guys like Kittel and Griepel have probably been the fastest in a drag race scenario.
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Old 04-06-20, 03:25 PM
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Track - the kilometer. No drafting or tactics. Just raw power and speed.

I, for one, love the tactical battle and chess match of mass start road racing. Also the matched sprint on the track where the faster doesn't always win.

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Old 04-06-20, 06:23 PM
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I have won sprints where I was not the fastest, but I timed it better. And I have lost sprints where I was the fastest, but I timed it poorly.
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Old 04-06-20, 09:33 PM
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Sometimes it's speed. Sometimes it's position. Depends on the day. Match sprints are a good way to judge this. Playing the games to win or just going for it.


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Old 04-06-20, 10:57 PM
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Originally Posted by hrdknox1 View Post
I get it, but I wish there was more head to head battles like there are on climbs
Does position trump speed on a climb?



Depends on the climb, the competition, and the magnitude of the difference in position.
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Old 04-07-20, 06:55 AM
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Track match sprints pretty much answer your question. While tactics and position are factors, speed is increasingly the determinant. Final results very closely align with qualifying times.
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Old 04-07-20, 09:09 AM
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Match Sprints - In practice, sprint tournaments are begun with a qualifying flying 200 meters to seed the tournament and cut the field to a set number - something like 16. So if 50 racers showed up, only 16 would be allowed to go head to head. In the tournament, the top seed goes up against the slowest racer and so on down the list. This is to make sure that the fastest qualifying racers end up in the quarter finals - theoretically.

Tactics come into play as the tournament proceeds but in general, the fastest qualifier usually prevails but of course there are exceptions. Race craft per se, is usually pretty high for the top racers so not much of a differentiator.

Track sprinting is about leg freshness and strength to weight ratio where the best results come from showing up with fresh legs and the minimum amount of endurance to make it through the tournament. Track sprinting is a maximal effort.

Road Sprinting - Road sprinting is about being at the right place at the right time and having the freshest legs of those that are left. One cannot sprint from Offthebackistan. Well, one can sprint but it is too late to matter. So road sprinters must have enough endurance to make it to the finish line with the other sprinters. So by definition, road sprinting is a submaximal effort.

In grand tours, a day for the sprinters requires a sprinter to race usually over 100 miles before sprinting. With that much taken out of ones legs, one cannot jump a lot of positions in the field to get to the front. In this case, racers are excellent at race craft and try to disrupt each other’s sprint plans and lead out trains and fight for position as the race nears the finish.

Once again, the top submaximal sprinters with the freshest legs prevail and generally the fastest sprinter wins baring a mishap or disruption.
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Old 04-07-20, 11:59 AM
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I think I just really wanted an excuse to post the vid of the yellow jersey leading out the rainbow jersey again. Probably my all time favorite cycling moment. First TdF I ever watched any amount of.
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Old 04-07-20, 12:05 PM
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Not catching a wheel and winding up on the pavement doing a face-plant is key to a winning sprint.

Pros climb fast enough that the draft does matter. Pretty sure the ITT speeds up Alpe in the doping hey days was like 15mph. So, there were parts at 20mph or so then and parts below. Definitely in draft territory.

At that point, it's all about having the engine to get the gap and hold the gap so the rider behind gives up or blows up trying.

We see pros climbing and attacking and suffering, but, they're probably not at 100% threshold the entire time. It's about holding a bit below, going way over, then a bit below. Us mortals can't do that ish.

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Old 04-07-20, 06:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Hermes View Post
Match Sprints - In practice, sprint tournaments are begun with a qualifying flying 200 meters to seed the tournament and cut the field to a set number - something like 16. So if 50 racers showed up, only 16 would be allowed to go head to head. In the tournament, the top seed goes up against the slowest racer and so on down the list. This is to make sure that the fastest qualifying racers end up in the quarter finals - theoretically.

Tactics come into play as the tournament proceeds but in general, the fastest qualifier usually prevails but of course there are exceptions. Race craft per se, is usually pretty high for the top racers so not much of a differentiator.

Track sprinting is about leg freshness and strength to weight ratio where the best results come from showing up with fresh legs and the minimum amount of endurance to make it through the tournament. Track sprinting is a maximal effort.

Road Sprinting - Road sprinting is about being at the right place at the right time and having the freshest legs of those that are left. One cannot sprint from Offthebackistan. Well, one can sprint but it is too late to matter. So road sprinters must have enough endurance to make it to the finish line with the other sprinters. So by definition, road sprinting is a submaximal effort.

In grand tours, a day for the sprinters requires a sprinter to race usually over 100 miles before sprinting. With that much taken out of ones legs, one cannot jump a lot of positions in the field to get to the front. In this case, racers are excellent at race craft and try to disrupt each other’s sprint plans and lead out trains and fight for position as the race nears the finish.

Once again, the top submaximal sprinters with the freshest legs prevail and generally the fastest sprinter wins baring a mishap or disruption.
A few years ago I worked with a coach who tested me and saw that I had really good 1 minute power* but really lousy hour power so we spent a lot of time raising my FTP. There's no use having short term power if you've been dropped before you get a chance to use it.

(*And yeah, I know that 1 minute power isn't really a sprint, but it is good for leadouts (and occasionally you can catch people off guard by going from the next to the last corner and hold them off))
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Old 04-08-20, 10:59 PM
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Speed trumps position until speeds plateau. Then position usually trumps speed. This from a more amateur racer where it isn't flat out for the last hour before the sprint. For pro races, since most sprinters are virtually the same in top speed, it's about position and how fresh you are (aka how much of your top speed you can hit).

There was an informal enormous ride back in the day, the SUNY Purchase Tuesday Night Sprints. A lot of people would show up, realistically 60-80 on a regular big day, over 100 on a huge day (the ride patrons would break up the group into two). A lap was 2 miles, took about 7-8 minutes, and we'd be there 2-2.5 hours. I'd typically contest 10-12 sprints, 15-16 on a really good night (pretty much every sprint). 1 mile neutral, 1 mile anything goes. I usually went with friends/teammates and we'd do leadouts so guys would go as soon as we passed the bus stop (beginning of the 1 mile to the line). Since it started on a proper shallow downhill we'd rapidly be up to 40 mph, slowing a bit as the road undulated, then sprinting on a false flat downhill.

I learned there were four aspects to the sprint.

First, top speed. With better top speed, a rider could start his sprint from further back, aka "shelter". In many sprints top speed was enough to win a sprint. However, the fastest 3-6 riders were evenly matched in top speed, and for those sprints top speed no longer counted as much. A key figure to keep in mind - 1 mph is 1.5 feet per second, so a 1 mph difference in speed in a 10 second sprint is 15 feet. 0.1 mph difference is 1.5 feet. When sprints are won/lost by just a few feet, the top speeds are virtually identical, almost imperceptibly different. Winning by a bike throw is crazy close speeds, like winning by 2" means 0.01 mph difference in speed. This means a good bike throw, gaining about a foot, is worth not quite 0.1 mph in a sprint. (Similar top speeds makes sense - wind resistance increases exponentially so the fastest riders tend to go to a similar top speed - this is basically the case with the Kilo time trial on the track, where top speed differences are minor so now the emphasis has been on getting up to speed, aka the jump, which leads me to...).

Second, the jump. If two riders have similar top speed, and, again, this is somewhat common, then accelerating to that speed quicker is critical. Once up to speed, if both riders max out within, say, 0.1 mph of one another, you'll be pretty evenly matched. If one rider got to speed quicker, and they both jumped basically at the same time, the better jump sprinter will win.

Corollary to the jump - you have to be able to optimize your cadence, and in a road sprint that means you need to shift during your sprint (unless you launch at pro speeds, then you're already in the 11T). At SUNY Purchase I had a secret weapon for a while - a right side bar end shifter. This enabled me to jump in a lower gear then shift up through the gears as my speed climbed. Most racers used downtube shifters so they were stuck in whatever gear they jumped in. I could beat one such rider, a far superior racer and better sprinter, who we all know as Eric Minn (of Zwift). I'd jump in a lower gear than him to match his phenomenal jump, then shift through the gears to hit a better top speed. When STI came out and he got them, I pretty much never beat him again. He could out jump me no matter what and I couldn't pass him because we had similar top speeds. The only way I could beat him was if I jumped super early (so his jump didn't get him past me) or if he got boxed in, but generally he was too crafty and smart for either of those.

Third, position. The above two are important but only if you have decent position going into the sprint. Do you have to be 2nd or 3rd? It depends on wind.
* If it's a headwind, being the first to jump is pretty risky - everything important will be compromised. Your jump suffers, your top speed suffers, and there's a proportionately larger draft benefit for those behind you. I've seen decent sprinters do well from 15-20 riders back, if not further. At the same time, if one rider jumps super hard and the rider on his wheel lets a gap go (maybe a non-sprinter, even a teammate), it's very hard to claw back that gap. Position works both ways in a headwind, but generally if it's all sprinters up front you can wait in a headwind sprint. If it's very narrow then you need to be far enough front, but if it's a wide road you can be really far back. At SUNY if it was a headwind I'd either jump really, really, really late (if I was 2nd wheel behind a leadout guy) or I'd "lose" my leadout's wheel, let him keep the group together, and jump from 15 or so back.
* If it's a crosswind, and you understand how to use a crosswind, then position is absolutely critical. Be 2nd or 3rd wheel, jump to the sheltered curb side, and hold that curb. Anyone trying to pass you will face the same wind as you, and just as they pass you they'll be sheltering you all of a sudden, giving you a little respite. I saw one rider, a non-sprinter but with good 1 min power, lead out a current multi Masters National Champ (track sprint, crit, some others). I turned away because I figured my non-sprinting friend would get annihilated. He ended up winning the sprint, to my absolute disbelief. Crosswind, and the sprinter just could not get around the non-sprinter (Tour of Nutley, Cat 3s).
* If it's a tailwind then all bets are off. Biggest gear, biggest wheels, and if you have them then lead out early. Only those with similar equipment will be nearby. Top speeds will be unnaturally high. The rider with the compact crankset or the 12T small cog will be seriously disadvantaged. Speed becomes key, and gearing and wheel selection is critical. You have to have a gear you can push even at ludicrous speeds, and too low of a gear will blow you up quicker ("contraction fatigue"). Big wheels sail really well in cross-tailwinds, and I've picked up a lot of speed sprinting in those situations. SUNY Purchase often had a cross-tailwind sprint - combined with a very slight maybe 1% downhill final 200m the fastest sprints usually topped out at 46 mph coming off 35-38+ mph leadouts (take about 8 mph off for the slower headwind days). On those days my leadout guy/s knew to go flat out (i.e. they're actually sprinting to the point where they pull off) and I'd jump really early, banking on holding top speed long enough to get to the line. Those sprints were the most fun.

Fourth, the throw (and other techniques). If you don't know how to throw your bike properly, you'll give up places and possibly wins. In the link above there's a picture of a rock solid pro that almost won a stage, but because he doesn't throw his bike properly, he got 2nd. Later he says in an interview that if he'd won the stage it would have changed his career. He did a track type throw, which basically involves extending your arms. But a road sprint throw involves putting your butt way behind the seat, thrusting the bike forward. Peter Sagan is really good at this. When Taylor Phinney got tied for bronze in the world RR (U23 RR, picture in this article), it was because the Canadian guy really threw his bike well. If Taylor had throw his bike better ("properly") he'd have had the bronze to himself.

Other techniques optimize the jump, the sprint, etc (like shifting while sprinting, or rocking the bike, or sprinting on the drops) but those relate more to the first 2 things, speed and jump. The bike throw is unique in that it gets you closer to the line immediately with very little effort.
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Old 04-08-20, 11:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Ttoc6 View Post
I think I just really wanted an excuse to post the vid of the yellow jersey leading out the rainbow jersey again. Probably my all time favorite cycling moment. First TdF I ever watched any amount of.
That was when Cavendish ruled the world. He won a whole lot of races in his later years when he wasn't the fastest but had the experience to know where he needed to be and the riding skills to get himself there.
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Old 04-09-20, 04:21 AM
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position. timing. acceleration.

I always would try and sit in the top few. Way more forward than most guys. In fact, most of the time people were looking for my wheel, so I'd slot in someone's lead out and they'd be content to let that happen. Timed right, I'd jump first. I'd get a gap on the jump due to a harder acceleration, and timed right I'd have a gap I could hold to the line.

I was not fastet or most powerful. Not by a long shot.
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Old 04-09-20, 08:25 AM
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I think this is different worlds for different racing classes. World tour, P/1/2 and maybe 3, 4/5, and weeknight worlds. All different I think.

After my incident, I'm probably going to dip back in slowly once the Covid is over. Either breakaway tries or really long surges for a line (like 500m to 1km). Probably even just long tries in weeknight worlds until I get some confidence. Just going to be too gun shy after eating ****.

I'm only in 4/5. I'm pretty darn sure if I could get 100 feet gap with between 500 to 800m I could probably make it on my 1min power. If not, I'd only drag 1st and 2nd with me and string out the rest.

In the race with the incident, the strategy WAS going to pay off perfect. There's a pretty easy corner with about 3min to go. I was in the front 5 wheels at the corner and yelled "freaking GO, dig!!!". We got about 100 yards on the group and held it to the 200m where I crashed. There were only three of us then, those two side by side and me behind licking my chops. Caught wheel, crash. If I didn't eat it..........that was game over. But, strategy was point.

It was too flat a race to do my normal weeknight worlds game. Weeknight worlds has a little 2min hill before we come into the finish. I can recover pretty well from digs, somehow. So usually there I put in a hard dig to make the heavier riders burn a last match. This is an "easier" A group weeknight worlds in town with good hills. So I can hurt the sprinter bigger rider early and often. Meaning, by the last 1km and little sprint, they've nothing left.

The out of town worlds ride, I haven't done enough to get the feel for it. It's pretty darn flat and some talented riders show up to that one sometimes, so usually I'm just trying to make the break of 6 to 8 and surfing wheels. It'd take a monster effort to get away near the end in that group.

I do want to try in 4/5 to get away with just under a 1km to go a few times. On training rides riding pretty hard I can usually put in a 600w+ dig for around 45sec to 1min. That's usually good for over 30mph, meaning a minute for just under 1km. Plus, I feel like my jump is pretty good due to being a touch lighter.

I work out this idiotic math with my local KOM tries. Checkout the leaderboard times then workout your 'power duration curve' point and you've got your target.
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Old 04-09-20, 02:04 PM
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[QUOTE=carpediemracing;21408535]Speed trumps position until speeds plateau. Then position usually trumps speed. This from a more amateur racer where it isn't flat out for the last hour before the sprint. For pro races, since most sprinters are virtually the same in top speed, it's about position and how fresh you are (aka how much of your top speed you can hit).


I would think that a big guy, like Marcel Kittel, would have more power and generate higher top speed than a small guy like Caleb Ewing. If they were all to start in the same position and at the same time, I think top speed would vary greatly.
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Old 04-09-20, 11:07 PM
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Originally Posted by hrdknox1 View Post
I would think that a big guy, like Marcel Kittel, would have more power and generate higher top speed than a small guy like Caleb Ewing. If they were all to start in the same position and at the same time, I think top speed would vary greatly.
Smaller sprinters generally put down less power, but they have a smaller aero hole to drill, so they end up about the same speed. To wit - if you look at Cavendish vs Kittel (about 1 min into the video below), the two riders are side by side for basically the entire sprint, essentially going the same speed (consider they were maybe 2-3 feet apart after 10 seconds, so about 0.1 mph difference - it really could have gone either way. I recall reading that Cav would put down 1600w peak in training, Kittel much more (1800w?). I think Greipel was putting down over 2000w? Yet Cav had better success than the bigger riders. On the other hand there were some taller sprinters that really dominated also, Cipollini, Petacchi, Boonen (sort of), Kittel of course. Shorter sprinters include Caleb, Cav, Robbie McEwen, Abdujaporov.

Video:

Someone wrote a fascinating (to me) article about the top pro sprinters (Article: https://sportsscientists.com/2014/07...-sprint-stage/ ). The power numbers thrown around in various reports (I'm guessing the "brag" numbers were taken from best case numbers in training) were much higher than actual sprints at the end of a race. That makes sense because of fatigue, the effort made to get to 200m to go, etc. So a typical sprint for a pro win was 1120w for 13 seconds, peak about 1250w, and top speed about 41 mph. Except for top speed those numbers might be something you see at the front of a typical Cat 3 race. Check out NorCal cycling's few clips of the Frozen Four - the Cat 3 that wins a couple sprints is sustaining 1100w for much of the sprint. Heck, on the trainer tonight my peak was 1260w, 1100w for 7 seconds, and 1000w for 14s, and I'm definitely not a pro. In races I might hit similar numbers but, again, I'm not flying along at 36 mph for minutes before the sprint, maybe 10 seconds or something.

In the article they emphasize that field position appeared to be a major factor in the sprints studied. But keep in mind those were pro sprints, with each sprinter getting a leadout, really high average speeds (something like 36 mph for the last km). For normal humans in a grassroots race, we don't have 3 or 4 equal sprinters each with 3 or 4 dedicated teammates. It's usually a jumble of riders, maybe one or two teams trying to take control, but from what I've seen over the years, a good sprinter is very, very hard to beat in a "disorganized" sprint. There's a video of Legion beating some pro teams, and it basically illustrates the fact that a really fast sprinter is just untouchable in a sprint, regardless of teammates etc. They jump and it's game over.

*edit wow how to make the video smaller?
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Old 04-10-20, 07:19 AM
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I know not everyone loves GCN fake science, but their sprint video was revealing as to what power the leadout takes AND how much power the people in the slipstream of the leadout still have to maintain even before taking their turn. If a leadout person is at 800+ for 45 seconds, the followers are still probably in the 500's. Since the sprinter peels out last for the dig, they've been doing a tough amount of work to just get there.

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Old 04-11-20, 12:30 PM
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I always thought an old football saying was appropriate when setting up a sprint "it's not the X's and O's it's the Jimmies & Joes". Talking as a pure sprinter, PD curve that looks like a cliff, options for how you finish a race are limited. But if you have decent speed and can pick and hold a good wheel you are Top 10, pick the right wheel and you podium. Do that often enough and you will win a few. Choose who you are on deliberately and wisely.
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Old 04-11-20, 04:56 PM
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Video:

Excellent video.
In this video it appears to say it all.....speed trumps position. Mark Cavendish clearly had more speed coming out of the pocket. That’s why they call him “The Pocket Rocket”.

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Old 04-13-20, 01:07 AM
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Originally Posted by burnthesheep View Post
I think this is different worlds for different racing classes. World tour, P/1/2 and maybe 3, 4/5, and weeknight worlds. All different I think.
This. In fact I'm not really sure this post is in the right sub-forum...

That said the answer is both; position and speed. But the OP forgot timing too.

This is how you win with an 1100w sprint when there are four guys in the race with 1500w sprints that weight the same or less than you.

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Old 04-15-20, 11:04 PM
  #22  
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Depends if you are a pro or a USA rec rider.
If you make a few hundred K to a few million a year, a lot is done before the race even starts.

If a USA rec rider (so Cat 1, USA pro) speed is better.
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Old 04-18-20, 11:51 AM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by 79pmooney View Post
Track - the kilometer. No drafting or tactics. Just raw power and speed.

I, for one, love the tactical battle and chess match of mass start road racing. Also the matched sprint on the track where the faster doesn't always win.

Ben
Sprint tournaments use a 200 meter tt to determine placing on the bracket.
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Old 04-21-20, 01:59 PM
  #24  
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Position.

Especially in crits. If you're not in the right position before a crucial turn then speed doesn't even matter.
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