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I was watching the Olympics today and happened to catch track cycling (sprint). I understand that they have fixed gear bikes which is a reason they start slow, however, I did not understand why they did a lap or a little more at a very slow pace, then proceeded to pick up the pace for the second lap, and finally sprinted on the last lap instead of just going full out from the get go? What is the strategy behind this?

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They don't start slow because they are on a fixed gear (track) bike. They start slow because they are trying to coax the other rider into starting the sprint for the finish line before they do. The advantage is typically given to the rider behind the other because you have not only the element of surprise, but you also get a draft off the person in front.

These riders walk the line of not starting their sprint too early and thusly fading at the end...and allowing the other rider to get the jump on them and losing the advantage of getting in their draft.

  • It is this event, match sprint, where riders really push the limits of what is humanly possible as far as top speed and acceleration goes-- of course that only lasts seconds. 50 mph has been reached. This and keirin is the only cycling event where top contenders might weigh 200+ lbs (all muscle of course). – Angelo Aug 7 '12 at 12:35

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