Got a chance to see big Tom win today's stage up close at the finish line and thought I might share a bit sprint technique. Yes, sprinting is about making big power, a high preponderance of fast twitch muscles fibers, and explosivity. But it's also about :
Position : Steve Wick said it best, you have to give everything you have to be in the top five or six at the end of the race, the sprint comes from somewhere else. This means with 10 minutes to go you may have to burn ALOT of matches to fight for a wheel, not give up a wheel, take wind, and TT your butt to the front. You're already redlined and ready to give up, and guess what, you have to go even harder to launch your sprint. If you are not in that top ten your day is over, you can't sprint from 20th to get to the podium. Practice this on race rides !
Patience : Know your distance that you can hold max speed and power. I practice by counting the telephone poles on RD 29. Most of them are 170 meters apart. I know I am fit when I can sprint and hold power for 2 or 2.5 sets of these. This is like 350-400 meters and considered a very long way in the sprint world. Be patient. Grab a wheel of the guy who launches from 600M out and pass him when he inevitably dies at 100M or 200M. This is what Boonen did today.
Nerves of steel : Some days I feel like bumping handlebars and throwing down. Some days I don't. You have to feel confident and aggressive to sprint. If I don't, I don't.
Trust your leadout and pre-leadout ( high tempo ) people : They are up there to take you to the line. Let them, stay on them until 200M to go or until they motion you around.
Technique : I posted the picture of Boonen because he is the only guy throwing his bike back and forth and still accelerating. The other guy's bikes are upright. Note Boonen's left leg at bottom of pedal stroke and how he threw his bike to all the way to the left on this downstroke of the left foot. A bike frame and handlebar can be flexed and pre-loaded with the energy returned benefitting the rider with forward motion. You can see Boonen about to start his right pedal downstroke and his right hand on the bars throwing the bike to the right, rocking the bike back and forth and ever accerlerating. In addition, his legs are even slightly bow-legged, he will snap his right knee in towards the top tube during the right pedal downstroke which will increase his accleration. Practice this at low speed. Hands in the drops, not hoods. Head down, butt up, flat back. Push down on the right foot, push handelbar to the left with your right hand. Push down on the left foot, push handlebar to the right with your left hand. You physically move and rock the bike back and forth. As the bike rocks back and forth feel the frame and bar flex and return your energy. (like a ski carving a turn ) Rinse and repeat until you run out of gear. Once you perfect the technique you accelerate faster than if your bike is straight upright. Be careful not to throw your bike too far or into another rider in a sprint as we are all getting close and cozy at 40 mph....Learn how to shift while standing/sprinting. This is exactly how the pros do it. Good luck. Find me on a group ride for more on this or a free leadout to the finish line if you want it.