Hill sprint extra

hill-sprint-extraAim of Session

All out sprints approaching a climb with a maintenance of max effort

Session description

WU: 15 min ride in zone 2, or however long it takes to ride out to your climb, not included in session duration

MS: Start with a 15s sprint approaching the climb, then maintain as high as possible power for 1 min, typically staying in zone 6. Remain seated throughout. Do 5 reps, each with 5 mins easy pedalling to follow.

CD: spin back home, not included in session duration


The key to this session is the opening maximal sprint. Immediate energy, especially high intensity work, is 'fuelled' by the muscle stores of phoshagens (Creatine Phosphate and Adenosine Triphosphate). A 15s sprint will deplete these energy stores. This means the body has to switch to other systems to provide the energy for the 1 minute work - zone 6 is still high intensity, so energy comes from another anaerobic system: the glycolytic system. The ATP+CP and glycolysis systems make up a riders' "Anaerobic work capacity". The short, intense nature of the work plus the relatively lengthy recovery (work to rest ratio is 1 to 5) means we stress the anaerobic system maximally: training adaptations therefore come from recruitment of fast twitch fibres, clearance of metabolic by-products (hydrogen ions, lactic acid) and more effective use of the muscle bound phosphagens. 

Application for the Rider

"AWC" is a useful ability to develop in all cycle racing - given no race effort is "flat". Even in track racing, there is an initial burst of energy required to get you out of the standing start. Furthermore, most riders experience the need to up the pace towards the finishing line! Doing this session on a climb ensures you have a resistance to work against - while a rider could simply sprint and settle into a lower pace on the flat, there would always be a temptation to drop off the pace as fatigue sets in. On a climb, there is no where to hide!

Practicalities and tips!

  • Its very important not to hold back in the sprint just to save energy for the 1 min block - we have to burn off the ATP+CP stores to maximise the impact of the 1 minute period.
  • Make sure the climb is long enough to fit the sprint and zone 6 effort in; also don't pick a climb that is too steep - find one that still allows a nice high cadence i.e. 90 to 95rpm. Remember this is a session to improve sprint performance (which typically needs fast twitch fibres and fast contraction speeds)
  • More experienced riders can try to achieve more than 5 reps in a session: either perform multiple sets of 5 reps (30 mins recovery in between) OR continue the series of reps until fatigue. A useful way to call that 'fatigue' has been reached is to allow for a 15% drop in peak power of the sprint effort and calling it a day after this has happened

Evaluation of the session

  • How were your peak powers in the initial 15s sprint?
  • How did the peak values change over the reps? over the multiple sets?
  • Likewise, what were your powers like for each 1 minute period in zone 6?
  • Which gear allowed you to sprint maximally yet also climb aggressively for the 1 minute?
  • Was 5 minutes long enough for recovery?
  • Calculate your power to weight ratio. How does this compare to other riders in your race category?
  • You may also have completed the "Power sprints" training session where the sprint comes at the end of a 1 minute effort - how does the power pattern compare?