How to get low in a sprint like Mark Cavendish

In climbing, it's all about the power-to-weight ratio. For sprinting, though, it's power-to-aero-drag

Mark Cavendish works tirelessly to be the best at what he does. He shows that instead of just accepting someone else is better than us, we can work on the details of our own riding to bridge those gaps.

One area where he has the edge over his rivals, though, is in his ability to deliver power while keeping his front end very low to the handlebar. Former-elite level racer, coach and manager of the UCI Continental team, Tim Elverson, looks at how Cavendish became the master of his art.

1. The lowdown

Go low
Go low

If you have a lower frontal area, and therefore less aerodynamic drag, then you’re going to be faster. But that’s hard to achieve while still putting out full power.

Few sprinters are able to match Cavendish in that regard, so he gets a clear advantage.

2. Fast driver

Fast driver
Fast driver

It’s clear that Cavendish has a strong core. He is able to hold his head low and drive through his body to produce the same power as he would in any other position, and that requires maintaining strength in the core.

3. Fully armed

Fully armed
Fully armed

In a sprint effort you need to use your arms as levers to help produce even more power. A lot of riders have to be higher over the bars and pull on them to achieve that.

Work on pulling the bar while staying low and you will get more for the power you produce.

4. So solid

So solid
So solid

Another key to Cavendish’s success is the fact he keeps his centre-line on the bike solid, so power generated by his arms is transferred to his leg drive and not away.

If his core wasn’t solid then pulling with the arms and driving with the legs would cause his torso to twist.

5. Precise timing

Precise timing
Precise timing

Not many know the exact figures, but it’s well documented that Cavendish’s peak power numbers aren’t up there with the best. However, he uses what he has to the max.

No matter how low you stay, try to keep out of the wind for as long as possible before the big effort.

6. Forward thinking

Forward thinking
Forward thinking

Get ahead of the bottom bracket to deliver more power. As you move forward out of the saddle your head is likely to rise, as on a climb, so work hard on shifting your weight forward while keeping your head low.

Upper body strength

It can often seem counter-intuitive, but if you are getting involved in sprints at races — or just want to get to the village sign or cafe ahead of your riding mates — remember, as well as your legs, it's your whole body that's delivering power to the pedals.

This starts with your arms pulling on the bars, and if you want to do that in as extreme a position as Cavendish, you’ll need upper body strength. Nasser Bouhanni is another rider that can emulate Mark’s position, and it’s no coincidence that he’s a former boxer!

This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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