Castelli SkillZ and DrillZ Ride, 19 April – On a number of occasions, we have discussed sprinting during the Castilli SkillZ and DrillZ Ride. Today, we focused a little more specifically on sprinting on Zwift vs outdoors.

To see the video of this week go to Zwift Live by ODZ on Facebook or watch it below:


Sprinting on Zwift is a bit different than during IRL races. In IRL races, sprints are executed best when the sprinter has a few teammates or unwitting accomplices help ramp up the speed while blocking the wind. The sprinter then has the opportunity to conserve energy and gearing before launching. During Zwift sprints, though, some TeamODZ teammates and I figured out that putting a few riders up the road, spaced a few seconds apart, gives the sprinter a better draft zone and multiple sling shots. Because of this difference, we decided to focus only on the Zwift-specific sprinting this week.

Sprint Positioning

As we got into our drillz today, we started the class by discussing positioning. We have covered positioning many times during SkillZ and DrillZ, but I wanted to make sure that we reinforced the instruction by demonstrating the difficulty of sprinting from a poor position. So, we set it up to have two groups. Group 1 (G1) moved to the back of the bunch, and Group 2 (G2) held the front at 1.5 W/kg. When told to go, G1 jumped to 3.0 W/kg for 20 to 30 seconds. While 3.0 W/kg is not a full on sprint for most people, the doubling of pace of the main field is fairly realistic. The point was not for G1 to get away but to show how difficult it is to get away if the sprint is started from the rear of the field. In fact most of the riders were not able to get more than a second or two ahead of G2 after 30 seconds. G2 experienced the same effect when we swapped positions.

Teammates as Slingshots

Next, we shifted focus to Zwift-specific sprint tactics, specifically the use of teammates. During IRL events, the best way to execute a sprint is to have two or more teammates ramp up the speed, peeling off as they fall off pace, and ending with the sprinter launching off the wheel of the last teammate just before he or she loses steam. That works for IRL events, not so much on Zwift. Why is that, you ask? Well, there is one simple explanation. In Zwift, your avatar can ride through the riders in front of you. During IRL events, you can try that once. After you pick yourself up out of the heap of bikes and torn lycra, you will quickly understand how bad of an idea that was.

Since the leadout train is not very effective on Zwift, some folks have figured out how to get the same effect. Basically, it involves sending riders up the road, spread out every one to two seconds. Spreading out some teammates, creates a series of draft zones for the sprinter to use as slingshots and keep building speed. We executed this drill by sending myself and one other rider slightly up the road and having the two group take turns using us as slingshots.

Sprinting From a Distance

For the grand finale, we moved on to sprinting from distance. This is a tough move to make, but may be entirely necessary depending on your opponent. Sprinters come in different types. Some have immense power from 200 meters. Others have a quick, explosive start but can’t go for more than 10-15 seconds. Still others can go from 600 meters and beyond, despite not having super explosive power. Today we worked on going from longer distances to neutralize those short-burst sprinters because there truly is a technique to the long sprint from a bunch.

For the final series of drillz, we broke the long sprint into three parts. First, the burst is needed to create space from your opponents. Second, the gap maintenance is required to set up the finale and hold off any chasers. Third, the finale is needed to close out the sprint, closing the door on any counterattackers trying to come over the top. The burst can be roughly equated to three times your FTP. No, you cannot hold that for very long. That’s not the point. That effort is only a 10-15 second effort to get away. After that short effort, you transition into the gap maintenance phase, which is the longest phase. During this time, you have to hold at least 1.5 to 2 times your FTP. The further out you start the sprint, the longer you have to endure this lactic-acid, lung-searing, heart-pounding pain. The best part of this phase is that you only have another 10 to 15 seconds of effort remaining once you finish it. The bad part is that the remaining time has to be done much closer to the 3x FTP from the burst phase. Basically, you have to give everything you have.

The ability to endure this pain is what separates first and second place, more often than not. We executed a number of these intervals ranging from 30 seconds to 1 minute. Pretty much everyone felt that the 60 second effort was pretty horrible.


As we discussed at the end of the ride, sprinting is much more complex than just being the rider with the highest 10 second power. Placing yourself in a tactically beneficial position and utilizing your teammates to maximize your advantage will help you neutralize the strengths of your opponents. Then, following Sun Tsu’s advice to know yourself as well as your enemy, you can turn the tables on your adversaries. Understanding your capabilities and limitations will allow you to dictate the terms of the race, rather than reacting to the plan of another rider. Practicing the long sprint and developing the long power can give you an edge by disrupting the plans of those monster-legged, Greipel types. Notice that I indicated the need to practice. During the last drill of the day, the common theme was going too hard, too early and fading out of contention. Keep working on the drillz that we did during the class and really try to learn your capabilities, and you will put yourself in the best possible position.

Next week, we’ll work on our climbing skillz, including when it is appropriate to go over the red line. Until then, Ride On!