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Sprint Tactics: Part 1 - 3 Strategies to Race the Sprint From the FRONT!

When it comes to mastering the craft of the ‘cat and mouse’ there are a few simple strategies that if adhered to, will give you the best opportunity tactically to out-smart your opponent.

In this blog we want to offer your 3 simple strategies to ride the sprint from the front position.

If you find you draw ‘1’ or ‘bottom’ before the race, you’ve got the job to lead the race out for the first half lap (unless of course your opponent wants to take the front position from you).

When you find yourself in this position for the first time, it can be a bit daunting and unnerving and at times you might find yourself wondering what you should be doing in this situation, this is why it’s really important to have a race plan!

Whilst your race plan may not eventuate entirely due to the unpredictability of the sprint and differing agendas of the riders, it’s important that you have a plan (even if it’s flexible) in place to give you the confidence and ability to control the race.

So, if you draw ‘1’ or ‘bottom’ and you’re planning to ride the sprint from the front, the 3 strategies we will offer you will encompass 3 fundamental principles:

  1. Distance 
  2. Speed 
  3. Position   

Distance = The amount of distance between you and your opponent.

Speed = The speed in which you ride at during the race at various points.

Position = The position you occupy on the track in relation to the track itself (e.g. how high you position yourself from the top, or how close you are to the bottom/sprinters lane).

So with these three fundamental principles in mind, let’s talk about 3 strategies you can implement in training to help you out-smart your opponent and win from the front in a race!

'Watching Your Door'

What it Means:

Watching your door, simply means ensuring that you don’t leave yourself open for your opponent to take the front position away from you.

You’ll often see this occur when a rider loses the visual with their opponent and opponent ‘jumps’ or ‘attacks’ to take the front position away.

Training Activity:

  • Practice riding with your head looking over your shoulder. This doesn’t always mean that you’ve lost your ability to see where you’re going! Practice with your peripherals - with practice you’ll notice that it is easier to maintain a wide peripheral vision of both the track and your opponent. By practicing this skill, you’ll be able to watch your opponent movements and counteract an attack.
  • Divide the track into two - bottom half and top half. Practice looking over both shoulders keeping in mind that you always need to have the majority of the track in your path of vision (e.g. if you’re at the bottom of the track, look over your right shoulder towards the majority of the track, and if you’re at the top, look over your left shoulder). If you have the majority of the track covered visually, you’ll have a better eye on your opponent, and more room to execute your own tactics and race strategies.

    LIMITED VISION = LIMITED RESULT

 
Maintaining Enough Distance to Counteract an Attack

What it Means:

Maintaining enough distance to counteract an attack is pretty self explanatory and a lot easier said than done!

It can be particularly difficult if you’re trying to maintain a slow controlled speed to play into your own tactics, and find that your opponent creeps right behind you in the lap to two of the sprint. If this occurs, you should never panic, but keep a clear focus to retain the control of the race.

When we talk about maintaining distance to counteract attacks, you will usually find an opponent trying to take the front position away from you towards the end of the race when the sprint commences, or in the half lap prior.

In this case, the objective is to try and maintain enough distance so that if your opponent decides to attack early, you have enough distance and space to counteract the attack and remain in front. That way, at worst they will end up on your rear wheel, or your right hip and having to travel the long way to get around you.

Training Activity:

  • Similarly to training tactics mentioned above in ‘watching your door’ we’d recommend to practice riding looking over your shoulder - by understanding where your opponent is, you enable yourself to position accordingly to a) keep the distance b) adjust the height and c) adjust the speed.
  • With a friend or training partner, practice ‘follow the leader’ on the track where the front rider has to be challenged by the rear rider in maintaining two bike lengths distance at all times on the track. Whilst practicing this tactic, don’t allow for the set distance to change (e.g. the rider at the back should not drift into the distance and not creep up too close). It’s up to the front rider to adjust the height/distance/speed to keep the gap just right. You can practice this activity at varying speeds which will enable you to replicate a race situation.

Controlling the Speed of the Race Using the Track

What it Means:

Controlling the speed of the race using the track, simply means using the track to generate or reduce speed without relying on your energy systems to do the work.

It may not seem like a big deal, but by using the banks to generate or reduce speed on the track you allow yourself to conserve energy until the ‘business end’ of the race.

When you think about it, the first 1.5 - 2 laps of the race can lean towards 30 seconds or more.  If you’re finding yourself constantly slowing down and speeding up without maximising the banks, you’ll be spending unnecessary energy that can be utilised later in the race.

When races are one and lost in photo finishes, it really does highlight the need to maximise free speed and couple it with your race tactics.

Training Activity:

  • On your own, or with a training partner, bring yourself up to moderate pace at the top of the track and then take the pressure off the pedals. Without putting pressure back on the pedals, practice building free speed by cutting out the steeper parts of the track. Take note of the free speed you can generate and the various points on the track in which this occurs. Once you’ve practiced building free speed, try the opposite - build speed at the top of the track, and then use parts of the track to decelerate without allowing any eccentric pressure on the pedals to assist with deceleration. 
  • If you’re practicing the above with a training partner, have them try different tactics and positions on the track whilst riding behind you which force you to either, 1. cut the track or 2. use the banking to generate free speed (maintaining enough distance from them to ensure you can counteract an attack). 

Stay tuned for next week’s blog where we will offer sprint tactics and strategies to ride from position 2, or the back. 

Share with us your experiences on track sprinting tactics in the comments below! 

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