Welcome To Sprint School
Hit the finish first with these tips from 16-year-old phenomenon Megan Jastrab
Learn from your juniors.
LAST MAY, AS A GUEST for the Amy D. Foundation Team, then-15-year-old Megan Jastrab finished second against a stacked professional field at the Redlands Bicycle Classic criterium. Even more impressive, she achieved that result on limited gearing: junior racing rules in the US restrict her maximum gear to a 52x14, meaning that she has to spin more to go the same distance as riders with bigger gears. (For comparison, fellow sprinter Lauren Hall frequently races with a 50x11, which lets her travel almost 305cm on one pedal stroke compared to Jastrab’s 249.) Translation? Jastrab is a master of strategy and position. Here’s her advice for setting yourself up to win – even if you’re not the strongest. Study the course. Jastrab likes to preview courses by driving them and watching YouTube videos of past years’ races so she’ll know what to expect at the finish. “Is it an uphill or a downhill sprint? Does it come out of a corner quickly?” These details help her decide where to position herself. Follow your competition. Maybe you’re not the favourite, but knowing who is could help you to a surprise victory. Position yourself on an experienced racer’s wheel, says Jastrab. “Ninety-nine per cent of the time, they’ll be in a good position.” Following a vet will help you learn how to set up your sprint – and you just might be able to come around to win. Move up! It’s hard to win a sprint from the back of the field, says Jastrab. “Using energy to get yourself into position is going to pay off immensely.” Typically, she’ll take action inside the last eight kays. How close to the front you should be depends on the size of the group, but you’ll usually want to position yourself among the first 10 riders within the last kilometre, without being first in line. If there’s a climb or tight corner near the finish, you should get even closer to the front – in the top five. Check the wind. “If there’s a headwind, you don’t want to be stuck out there,” says Jastrab. “Someone will sit on your wheel and jump you, because they’re fresh.” She recommends sprinting later – 25 to 50 metres past where you’d normally start
– to minimise your time in the wind. In a tailwind, your speed will be higher, so you’ll sprint for a shorter time. Start early for the best advantage. How early depends on conditions – the size of the pack, how you’re feeling, the wind speed and direction, and more. Practise in different conditions with friends to fine-tune your timing.