High speed sprints

high-speed-sprintsAim of Session

On a downhill section, sprinting from top speed

Session description

WU: 15 minutes, progressing to final 5 in zone 3, included in session time

MS: All out sprints of 12 to 15s. 4 repeats with 5 mins easy pedalling in between. 10 mins between multiple sets. Sprint out of the saddle, but keep form by head-up and controlling bike on line

CD: 15 minutes easy spinning, , included in session time



The physiology behind sprinting relies on the rapid breakdown of ATP and use of the phosphocreatine energy system. This session requires you to sprint from a high speed, using the downhill to allow you to make the jump without the fatigue from having to reach this speed under your own effort. This will test your neuromuscular function - sprinting at high speed with a high cadence requires very different muscle firing patterns to a slow speed uphill sprint. At the cellular level muscular contraction is the result of interaction between actin and myosin filaments and cross bridge cycling - producing power at very high cadences requires these filaments to couple and uncouple at a similarly high rate. Improvements in neuromusculular function rely on optimisation of these processes. On a whole body level, high cadence sprinting also relies upon rapid activation / deactivation of the muscle pairs - the so called 'agonist' and 'antagonist' muscles: in more simple words, you don't want to be recruiting the hamstrings and the quadriceps at the same time - you need to move the 'dead leg' out of the way as quickly as possible so that the force producing muscles can get to work in propelling the bike!

Application for the Rider

You will rarely see a race finishing on a descent. Finishing speeds are often high enough without any extra help from gravity! However, for both road and track racing you will often have to sprint from a fast moving bunch - this session helps prepare your muscle fibres for sprinting at high speed by simulating the scenario without the need for a group of fellow athletes.

Remember power is a product of force and speed - you may first have worked on developing the force aspect using big gear bursts, now this session also allows you to hit very high cadences. Used in tandem you get the ideal progression to develop your peak power.

Practicalities and tips!

  • Safety first! - choose a hill without sharp bends and good visibility. Also don't do this on a hill with too steep a gradient. It's possible to hit very high speeds in this session - most other vehicles might not realise the speeds a bicycle are capable of travelling at so be very careful of hills with side roads and drive ways.
  • If you don't have a suitable nearby then save this session for windy days. You can get the same effect by performing this session with a brisk tailwind.
  • Concentrate on technique as well as power - keeping low out of the wind and steering the bike in a straight line will help you make the most of your power output.

Evaluation of the session

  • Look for your peak power for each sprint
  • Also worth analysing are your average power for each sprint, the time it took to hit your peak power and how much your power drops off.
  • Take a look at your peak cadence, and the cadence that corresponds to your peak power. This session aims to lift these variables so aim to see it increasing as you repeat this session.