Chris Hoy rides 52x14
While trolling the 'net today I stumbled onto an interesting article on Pez news about Chris Hoy. Interesting to see the gear choices in particular. Chris says he's running 52x14, or 100.3 gear inches, for pretty-much all his racing. Compare that to the gears Gary Neiwand rode at Sydney in 2000 (92") back in the Charlie Walsh days. Looking at pictures of Hoy, he has the leg muscle to push that sort of a big gear and be able to accelerate it. Probably not as snappy as Neiwand on 92", but his top speed is less limited by cadence, and more by sheer horsepower, and if you watch how Hoy races, he's got a very long sprint (he's been the kilo world champ after all) and he rides away from the front of keirins. Strong ...
Roady sprinters often sprint in 53x12 (119") or bigger, but they don't have to start from slow speeds to do it, so don't have to worry about the huge amount of torque required to get such large gears up to speed, they have leadout trains and they generally have spindly legs by comparison to track sprinters. If you put Sean Eadie next to Robbie McEwen, for example, the difference is ... significant. One of the riders who contested the sprint at the Australian titles a year or so ago peaked at a feeble 1350 or so watts, and that was a top 3 position at the nationals out at Buninyong.
I wonder if bigger gears for track sprinters favour those of us who are a bit older, it's generally accepted that as we get older our peak power drops due to less nerve innervation into muscles, but strength doesn't drop so much, perhaps this means that the older we are the more we gain from using bigger gears, thus relying on torque moreso than high-rpm power? My experience recently suggests that I'm faster on bigger gears, my F200 on 98" was significantly faster than when I rode it on 91.8". Then again, some riders are great at spinning like the clappers and they're well into their 40's. The 'ideal range' for RPM vs power seems to be around 120-130 rpm for most of the riders I've tested on the Powertap. Once you get above that power drops off reasonably quickly. Picking the gear that lets you use your peak power is going to help.