In the past, I have often lost bunch sprints because someone else jumped before I did, and I’ve run out of real estate chasing to the finish line. I’ve also won a bunch sprint by jumping early and getting a gap on the field. Which begs the question: when is the optimal point for me to begin sprinting?
Unfortunately, the answer is “it depends.” Because a longer sprint with an early gap can have a lower max speed, whereas a shorter sprint may require a faster acceleration. Jumping early may also force the chasers to go earlier than they want to, forcing them to hold it longer and disrupting their tactics. In general, I know I can go flat out from 200 meters without any problem, but I’m not always good at positioning myself at the front, so what for me is a 200m drag race is 190m for my competitors. Would I be better off to go earlier? Can I hold it to the end?
Last night at RMR, I decided to find out. We were racing on the oval, which is 400 meters per lap. Teammate Alex K. was in a break, but Nolan from Porcupine was chasing hard, and with two to go, the break had less than 50 meters gap. It wasn’t going to hold.
I was sitting about third wheel behind Nolan, and as we started to exit the last turn on the second-to-last lap, I made my move. I got a good jump and quickly caught and passed the break. I was by myself on the back stretch but the chase was closing in. Coming into the final turn, I was still in front, but my legs were on fire and my pace was slowing. I had four guys, including teammate Rob, pass me in the last 75 meters and finished fifth. Not a bad result, but more importantly, I have a better feel for how early I can start a sprint and hold it to the end.
The “A” race finished about ten minutes after ours, and that’s when I watched how it’s really done. There was a break of six with a good gap on the field. Dave H. was sitting in third position in the break behind Aaron O., with Aaron giving it all he had on the front. On the last lap, Dave accelerated. He didn’t stand up. He didn’t fight with his bike. He just pedaled faster. He went around the two guys in front of him and kept accelerating, building up a 2-3 bike length gap before he hit the line. He never got out of the saddle.