Giorgia Bronzini has been closing stages with powerful sprints for over a decade and claimed the women’s road champion title twice in her career. The Italian Wiggle High5 sprinter shares how she prepares and makes those key decisions in the final kilometre to win the race.
How much of being a successful sprinter relies on having a strong mind?
I always say that the moment I question my move on the sprint is the moment that I lose the sprint. Those rash decisions that you make in a split second are mostly the right ones. If you doubt your move, you lose valuable time and you really can’t afford to because the sprint holds everything in the last second. Instinct is what guides the sprinter in the best way.
I don’t think it’s something you can really work for, it’s a quality that you discover it in these situations. You either have that instinct or you haven’t. That said there is also an element of judgement and there are things you have to anticipate such as a pothole or a barrier that you might not have been aware of. I think accounting for things that might happen along the way comes with experience. Some of my instinctive rides when I was younger didn't always result in a win because I hadn't accounted for any obstacles along the way.
"I always say that the moment I question my move on the sprint is the moment that I lose the sprint."
Can you give an example of when trusting your instinct has helped you win a race?
I didn't have the best legs when I won the world cup in China and in the last moment I sensed that Chloe (Hoskins) and Jolien (D'Hoore) were in trouble. That day our tactic was supposed to be another one and I changed it, luckily with a positive outcome. They said that they were grateful I was there because they were in trouble and as a sprinter I recognised it and replaced them. This kind of balance and honesty in the team is the secret to our success.
How do you try and safe as you can during a race?
Most of the time the other riders and the sprinter have a lot of respite between each other so if you take a risk there is some room to move. There are some moments when other riders make it difficult for you and don’t think about the consequences. If I am being tactical I will do so but not in a way that I think will pose too much danger for others. Generally we aren't head on head or shoulder to shoulder, of course it can happen but most of the time there is space between us.
During the race, how do you preserve the legs for a sprint?
Normally, if I can, I try and stay in a lighter gear so I don't put unnecessary stress on my muscles. I also try and avoid standing out of the saddle too much because the weight of your upper body will put pressure on your legs. Anything that will give you more power in that last 100m is worth thinking about including your eating and drinking strategy before and during the race.
What's better - high cadence, lower gear, or low cadence, high gear?
It depends on the sprint conditions, like a headwind, tail wind, uphill or downhill will all affect your choice but I personally prefer to have a low gear and high cadence. For example, being in the third gear and keeping my cadence high will normally help me within the last few metres. Other sprinters with different body shapes might need a different tactic, they may need a higher gear because they are not able to have such a high cadence. It's really personal and you need to experiment.
As a rider with one of the longest careers within Wiggle High5, how do you impart your wisdom with some of the younger team mates?
I don't need to teach them a lot but I tell my team mates not to be afraid and that I began in the same position as them.
"The best thing you can do is get experience. The younger riders need to practice and look at the more experienced sprinters and not be afraid to make a decision."
I can give as much advice on sprinting as I can but at the end of the day it's up to the individual to try and get as much practice and experience.