Are sprinters born or developed?

I’m new to cycling and in watching old tour highlights the lead outs and sprints are quite exciting. It has me thinking sprinting is something I would be interested in training.

This begs the question is sprinting something you must naturally be good at or it is something that can be developed? Is there an ideal body type for sprinters? From what I have seen sprinters appear to come in all shapes and sizes.

A mixture of both, as with everything in cycling. If a non sprinter/climber etc works hard they can become a good one or even a very good one, but to reach that next level you’ve got to have the genetics too.

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To a certain extent genes and your inherited characteristics will play a part, i.e. riders who are born with more Type II (Fast Twitch) muscle fibers will tend to be better sprinters. However, you can definitely develop a good sprint with the worst genetics for sprinting in the world.

Bigger riders will tend to have bigger sprints simply because the bigger you are the more watts you tend to put out. However smaller riders make up the difference by their acceleration speed and pure w/kg.

For your sprint to be effective, you have to be able to get to the end without getting destroyed, so as contrary as it seems, having a big base and the ability to ride at lower intensities for long periods of time is key to having a good sprint. If you watch le Tour it’s not obvious how hard the sprinters are working throughout the race. Constantly closing gaps, managing accelerations, etc. especially in the final few km.

As for training your sprint, I’d focus on just building your riding base and not worry about it too much, it’ll develop pretty naturally as you ride more. That will only work for awhile, so if you want to really get a strong sprint, you’ll have to do specific training. There are plenty of threads on the forum on how to specifically develop your sprint, but a few key things are:

  1. Strength training is the best bang for your buck. And not just the squats and leg exercises. The upper body and core work is also helpful, because those muscles are what stabilized and control you and your bike, so the stronger those are, the less your leg muscles have to do that stabilizing. That’s why track sprinters are really muscular (for cyclists anyway)

  2. Actual sprint workouts are also going to be key. Spring durations ranging from 10-30sec are common, and rest between each interval is going to long, anywhere from 1-5min, depending on exactly what you’re going for. These are going to be HARD, fully emptying yourself in a sprint workout is not pleasant.

  3. As I stated above, your ability to ride hard BEFORE the sprint is also key, so having a strong 1min power will help you position and on the last surge before the sprint. You can also do workouts where you ride hard, but not very hard, for say 2mins, then you sprint all-out for 20sec, or something similar.

And I just realized how long this reply is, so I’ll stop there :slight_smile:


Elite sprinters are absolutely born, not to say it can’t be developed and improved upon.

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This is the correct answer. You need to be a genetic anomaly to compete and be the best at your sport.


(but then they have to learn how to ride the bike and get to the finish before the time-cut, etc…so you don’t just become a sprinter by being born. it’s hard work. genetics are necessary but insufficient)

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100% born.

With the caveat, that you can improve what you’ve got.

This has been researched in other sports (100m track sprinting), and the data definitively demonstrated the vast difference between athletes, from as early as high school.

It is a combination of both, genetics and training. I know from experience that my genetics make me a bad sprinter, but I still have developed a decent punch on the bike.

Especially when you are new to the sport and have few data points (e. g. because you‘ve been running a lot at one point in your life), I wouldn‘t pigeonhole you and simply try everything. Note that as you become better, your relative strengths might shift. So if you initially compete against people with little training experience who also do not know their strengths and weaknesses, you might be a good sprinter. But once you are up against people who are sprinters and specifically train for it, you might have to change tactics.

Moreover, keep in mind that at the higher levels, sprinters need team mates who protect them, which is another step in the learning curve.

Also note that sprinting is something that you can relatively quickly train, but something that detrains quickly, too. Moreover, its uses in regular riding are limited. If I were new to the sport, I‘d focus on my aerobic base, which takes years and years to develop. Apart from that, simply try a whole bunch of stuff. Don‘t assume you are good at something, especially because you want to be good at something.

Yup, what everyone else said.

Some of my best sprint numbers were off the couch.

It wouldn’t hurt to sprinkle in a few sprint sessions to work on technique. If anything, it can help with safety. Also, strength training has far reaching benefits, one of which is a possible increase in max sprint power.

But that’s about as far as I’d go. IMO it’s not worth your time to focus on sprint training early on. Having a killer sprint is useless without great aerobic fitness.



Born, if you are rs1815739 (T,T) as almost 1/4 of europeans are you will never ever win an Olympic medal in a sprint discipline, no matter how much you train

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That’s what I turned out to be. It explained a lot.

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It’s not all bad though, this mutation makes you more resilient to cold

Guess I don’t have that, shivers when it’s 50 at the starting line of a race

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