Automatic Endurance Training
No, they're not the same, no you don't have to pick just one, and yes you should build them individually. Before we get into some ideas on how to make you stronger, faster, and quicker, first you should understand the differences.
So what's strong? A tractor is strong. A tractor is strong as shit. Would you race in a tractor? No. As strong as it is, it's equally slow. Trust me, I've been stuck behind many a John Deere on country roads, cursing.
An 18 wheeler is also strong. Hell, it's even fast. I've seen those things blast down I-95 so fast your side view mirrors shake. But again, would you race in one? No way. Those things get off the line about as well as a 1980s club-hopper in Miami (yes, that's a cocaine joke).
Well, what about a moped? I'd take the moped against the 18 wheeler in a 100m race, but anything past that distance, and it's useless because it's got no top end speed. Quick yes. Strong and fast? Not even remotely.
Are we seeing the differences yet? The key in racing is to know your strengths, of course. But also to know your weaknesses, and not let the opposition play those against you. For instance, if you can hold a good top speed, but take a day and a half to get there, then don't let your competitors open the sprint. I can't tell you how many times I've come 6th out of a group of 6 simply because I was too chicken shit to open from distance. Not everyone is a 100m sprinter. If you don't have punch, then try slugging it out from 300m and see what happens. Just make sure you use some good timing to create the initial gap. On the other side of this, if you've got tremendous punch, but no particular top end, don't open from 200m and fade 50m from the line. There's more than one way to win a sprint, but first you must understand all the ways you will lose the sprint. As someone who's lost a lot of sprints, I've had the opportunity to become quite the scholar.
Here's another truth that's hard for some of us to swallow: everyone must sprint. Acceleration is the cornerstone of success in sport. From weight lifting, to marathon running: without a good turn of speed, winning probably isn't in the cards. Even the great long distance efforts of Cancellara in the classics were initially set off by vicious accelerations. And that stick figure Froome? He doesn't ride people out of his wheel with an aerobic engine: he does it with short bursts well into the red. So how will training your sprint benefit your aerobic nature and help you long before the finish line? Here are just a few benefits to having a little extra pop in your pocket (not a cocaine joke):
1) The harder you kick, the further you go with each kick, the less often you will have to kick, and thus the more time you will spend coasting and recovering. It's counter-intuitive, but the harder you pedal, the easier your ride.
2) Riding in a large bunch is not as stable as it looks on TV; It's extremely fluid, and if you're not going forward, you're going backward. Having that extra punch will help you zip through any gap that opens ahead of you, and maintain or improve your position in the bunch. And as we all know, it's easier to race at the front than it is to race at the back (usually). If you're sluggish, that gap closes, you get shuffled to the back, and you spend the rest of the race dying a thousand deaths out of every corner.
3) Attacking is easier. The quicker you can deliver larger force to the pedals (power), the fewer pedal strokes it takes to establish an equal gap. Establishing the gap more quickly will help limit the anaerobic damage of the attack, and let you access a higher percentage of your threshold power to sustain and grow your advantage.
4) Combine all three of those reasons you just read: having that extra kick will allow you ride at the front, do so more easily, while pedaling less, and as a result, when the race switches "on," you've burned fewer matches and can more easily respond to the attacks of others, or make the difference yourself.
Check back tomorrow for a few short efforts you can tack onto any workout to make racing easier.