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This week coach Colin Izzard explains the value of High Speed Sprints. Colin has been a full-time professional coach for nearly 15 years, and an endurance athlete for much longer. He’s raced both on and off road at the elite level and shares his expertise with us. He told us that his “own training focus is on being fit for training camps and being able to enjoy cookies without guilt.”

Why this workout is awesome?

There is a big difference between accelerating from 15mph to 25mph compared to jumping from 25mph to 35mph. Basically, the faster you’re going the harder it is to go even faster. As a cyclist’s speed increases air resistance increases exponentially, meaning you have to produce a lot more power when you start a sprint from a high speed. When you’re trying to win a local criterium or set a new record on the City Limit Sprint segment, adding High Speed Sprints to your training makes a huge difference.

Coaches Perspective:

Choosing the right location is crucial for executing High Speed Sprints, especially if you’re going to be doing them alone. You want to find a downhill section of road that enables you to bring your speed up to about 20-25mph while riding at or even below your normal cruising power/intensity. You also have to be really careful that you choose a section of road you can sprint on safely. You’re going to start your sprint going downhill and finish it on flat ground (bottom of the hill), so you have to make sure there are no stop signs, traffic lights, or crosswalks in your path. Even if you have the right of way I think it’s wisest to avoid intersections altogether during these sprints (and driveways if you can). The best case scenario is a straight downhill on a clear, open road that transitions onto a flat, straight road.

Use the descent to get up to speed (20-25mph). As you start to transition from downhill to flat ground, with your hands in the drops and your bike in a big gear jump out of the saddle, sprint out of the saddle for 12 seconds. It might take some experimentation to get the initial gearing right, but you want to jump in a gear you turn over fast. A jump with a high cadence will help you accelerate more quickly, and if you start to run out of gear you can shift into a harder gear after the initial jump.

Because you’re transitioning from downhill to flat ground you will feel the resistance to your sprint increase with every passing meter. Stick with the effort all the way to the end. If you can’t track these sprints by time (there’s a lot going on), use landmarks instead. And for God’s sake, KEEP YOUR HEAD UP!

When it comes to real-world sprints in a group ride or race dropping your head leads to a pileup. Keep your eyes forward even as you dig really deep for maximal power.

Spin easy for 5 minutes between sprints. Longer recovery periods between max sprints are necessary for your muscles to be ready for another huge effort. While short recoveries are good for other types of interval workouts, long recoveries are better for sprint workouts.

The Purpose of High Speed Sprints:

High Speed Sprints develop your top end power and speed. This type of sprinting improves your maximum peak power. Since it is performed slightly downhill at high speed and pedal cadence, the power demands will be huge due to the aerodynamic drag associated with beginning sprints at high speed.

Here’s the Workout:

60 Minutes Ride time: 15 minute warmup, 7 High Speed Sprints (31 minutes for interval set) and 14 minute cool down.

Ready for more?

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