Small rider needs to improve sprints

So I am a really small rider 5’4’ 111lbs. Obviously I am decent at climbing but my one weakness is putting down power.

So our local bike club has level rides (1-6 (1 is fastest)). I can ride comfortably in the second group but I tried to ride with the 1’s and they had ex pros and cat 1-3’s. We were only averaging like 22-23mph, but when they went really hard (going 30mph on slight uphills and flats. These efforts were just out of pure power 20 to 30mph in seconds on flats. I could not hold on at all and I was dropped (even when sitting behind wheels). I have been able to average 21mph solo but that wasn’t including efforts like those where they went over and under. These are how crits work and I plan on racing in them next spring when I am at college for Colligate cycling (college league USA Cycling).

What workouts/advice do you have for a rider with such a low weight who is trying to be able to do accelerations like those.

I expect there’s a big difference in your threshold compared to there’s rather than sprint power. Unfortunately your low weight doesn’t help on the flats when it comes to putting the power down, but that’s the area I would focus on improving.
There’s also an art to doing through & off which it sounds like what you’re doing, when you pull off, don’t stop pressing on those pedals otherwise it makes it twice as hard jumping on the back again.

I’m sure they’ve discussed this kind of thing in podcasts so you may find some good advice by listening to those.

Not sure there’s any particular workouts to recommend, any plan that raises your threshold and short power will help. As will continuing to do those group rides and figuring out all the other things (positioning, timing, cornering, anticipating surges, etc) that will help you to not get dropped. Sounds like there are likely some experienced racers in that group so don’t be afraid to ask questions, people are normally happy to help.

Also pick courses that suit your strengths with some climbing in. A nice hill every lap tends to take some of the sting out of those surges.

I am in a similar boat to you (5’7’’ and 128 lbs) and I have the same challenges. I am slowly making improvements by focusing on the key 3 areas in workouts: VO2 Max intervals (particularly the longer ones between 3-5 minutes), over-unders, and sweet spot.

I made the mistake of focusing too much on short power earlier this year and although I became more comfortable putting out high power for 90 seconds at a time, I couldn’t do it repeatedly or hang on during longer attacks. I think your best approach is just to keep focusing on these 3 zones since it will ultimately help raise your FTP and make you a well-rounded athlete.

Keep in mind our small size means we can accelerate much more easily than the big guys so as you start to hang on to these surges, you will be paying less of a price doing them repeatedly. (in crits, it’s easier for us to accelerate out of corners)

I’ve started incorporating overgeared sprints and can already tell these are helping - if you do workouts outside, definitely start mixing these into your rotation! (20 second sprints starting in a high gear like 52/14 at 3mph, accelerate as hard as you can and spin up as fast as you can til you hit the 20 sec mark. Repeat 6-8 times with 5 mins rest between)

I calculated my FTP and mine is 5.26W/kg (Averaged 289 watts on my peloton for 24 minutes). I don’t know how good that is though

A 24 minute effort is a long way off from what I call FTP, you would need a longer effort to determine FTP.

Suspect that isn’t accurate. Normal rule of thumb is to multiply a 20 minute effort (after a clearing effort) by 0.95 to estimate FTP. Applying that to 289 gets you to 275W, which at 111lbs (50kg) puts you at over 5.4W/kg. That would put you somewhere around the level of absolutely top amateur riders and lower level pros. Even with crit racing that is enough power with your weight that you should be able to hang comfortably with any pack, and on long climbs you would be absolutely killing it. If you really are putting out that kind of power and getting dropped then it’s not your fitness you need to work on but your pack skills and handling. But I would do a proper FTP test on a calibrated PM and see what results you get.

@cartsman I was really confused that it was so high too, but when I did a just ride on the peloton that is what I averaged. I mean I averaged 24.5 mph (somewhere around there). I was in a lot of pain obviously but I was holding 24mph and 290 watts. Never over or under (for the most part). On other workouts I averaged 225ish watts. And when it comes to climbs I have a history of dropping just about everyone (except cat1/2 and lower). I have passed people .3 miles up the road on longer more aggressive climbs. It really is just the attacks on flats I need to improve at and obviously drafting skills.

Are you getting this figure from a peloton bike or something along those lines? If so, then I have heard some of those peloton bikes produce some power figures that are way off.

@Dave yeah I am on our Peloton. I mean as far as I have seen power wise it seems pretty normal. Just casual spinning is ~60watts once you actually start putting down watts it reads around 200. Then more serious wattage is gonna be 310+ and when I sprint I usually read around 600.

In that case it’s probably best to just carry on training and enjoy the fitness gains and take the numbers for what they are. I don’t think the numbers are right but the doesn’t define you as a rider.
Perhaps starting leading your group rides up steeper hills so you have a better chance :wink: