VeloNews often asks the pros what they do for training, and the answer is often frustratingly similar: "Oh, I just ride."
For example, Quick Step's Tom Boonen, who seems to have figured out what it takes to win a sprint, said he doesn't do any specific sprint training.
"It sounds strange but the only time we train on it is in January in the training camp," he said. "We do some turns and a few lead-outs with the team. And that's everything." Even the great Eddy Merckx had a simple maxim for his recipe for success: "ride lots." Okay, that's all fine and good for the gifted professionals, what about the rest of us?
Luckily, Columbia-HTC's Mark Cavendish, arguably the best sprinter in the world right now, does have a specific workout for sprinting that he shared with VeloNews.
"I just do a sprint, one or two sprints at the end of every ride," Cavendish said. "I do them over-distance. In a Tour de France stage you're looking at between 150 and 250 meters. But I always do 300 meters."
Cavendish has already won a number of races this year (2009), including a stunning victory at Milan-San Remo, an incredibly long race at 185 miles.
To practice the long sprint, Cavendish looks for flat roads coming off of downhills to get him up to speed without a lot of effort.
"I get to the bottom of a slight downhill, just rolling. I'm not pedaling much, just rolling at about 40k an hour," Cavendish said. "Then I hit it, boom! I hit it, and I go 70k an hour and I try to hold that for 300 meters. I always die. And it's about dying and just trying to sustain that to 300 meters. If you can do over-distance then you can sustain 250 meters no problem. That's all it is, really."
Like Boonen, Cavendish also practices lead-outs with his teammates at training camp. Then, in races, Cavendish doesn't talk much—or even need to—with his teammates in the final kilometers.
"I trust them, you know? I race with such an experienced group of guys," he said. "The only word I say in the last 2k is 'Go!' Because it's worth using someone up early to keep me up at the front and I'll jump on another train rather than getting swamped. If they blow then the train will go past them. I've got enough force I can get on the wheel I want to get on. So I'll push in on another train and go from there."
Cav's Sprint Workout
- Find a flat to slightly downhill stretch of open road. Pick a finish line.
- Get up to tempo, perhaps with the help of a friend's lead-out if available.
- Jump as hard as you can, about 100 meters before you normally would.
- As your legs start to fatigue, keep fighting to keep the gear turning.
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