Automatic Endurance Training
Strength is the foundation of any sport. If you don't believe me, that's probably why you've never won anything ever. But like brick and mortar, Strength is only the foundation. It's step one on your way to hot, nasty, badass speed. So how do we build strength? I'm glad you (didn't) ask.
Step 1: buy a gym membership. "But I heard..." YOU HEARD WRONG, SONNY. Step 1a: If someone tells you the jury is still out on weight lifting for cyclists, just run. I know cyclists aren't supposed to run, but in this scenario, you have my blessing.
Step 2: Use said gym membership. Grab a bro (I swear to god, Gym bros are way friendlier and more supportive than they look), and ask him/her to teach you how to squat/deadlift/not-cripple-yourself. If you can afford a real-live-personal trainer, then get one of those FOR SURE. If you can't afford such luxe, Youtube and a mirror go a long way. Then lift heavy. Ass. WEIGHT. Ya know, within reason. Push your limits. Don't squat 90lbs for 20 reps. You get plenty of muscular endurance on the bike. We're going for max force here. That's what this is all about: Bendin' Bars, and Beatin' Cars; Snappin' Cranks, and Givin' Thanks; Winnin' Races, and Bein' Respectful to the Race Referees... Seriously, be nice to those guys. They don't get paid enough to deal with your your cat 3 temper tantrum.
Step 3: Apply newly found mutant strength to the pedals. How? Here are a couple ideas:
1) Standing Starts: When it comes to inducing worry over whether your chain/cassette is worn out, there's nothing better. It's also pretty good at developing maximum torque. You'll never produce more torque on your bike than you do in the first few strokes of a standing start. So how do we do them? Put your chain in a massive gear (I stay out of the absolute biggest because of that one day in November I don't like to talk about). Slow down to a stop, or as close to one as you can get without falling over. Take a deep breath, brace, and accelerate that puppy as violently as possible. Truthfully, it won't be all that violent (lol jk). It'll feel like you're moving a barge through mud, and by the time you get on top of the gear, the effort will be over. So how long does this last? About 5 seconds. Pretty short, huh? That's because after about 4-8 seconds, there's a break, and force production declines. You'll start dipping into glycogen stores, accumulating lactate, and potentially blunt the main workout of the day. I stick to 6 strokes if I've got something else to do later. Left, right, left, right, left, right, done. I wouldn't do more than 10 of these if it's not a sprint-specific day. Take as much rest as you need, but always take at least 2 minutes. The purpose here is to get your muscles firing at capacity. Shorting the rest will only detract from that. Always do these coming off a rest day. It's not that you can't do them on tired legs, but what's the point? You're trying to fire emoji at 100%.
2) Over-gear hill climbs. Do them up to 10 minutes in length. Keep the cadence in the 60-70 range. Get a bike fit. Maybe not in that order, but you get the idea. This isn't anything new, but sometimes I see riders doing their "over-gear" work, and all they do is click the chain down to the 11, and start smashing at 50rpm, but don't actually up their power. Congrats, you just went from 200w at 90rpm to 200w at 50rpm. Not exactly causing deep stimulus, and not really the point of over-gearing. These efforts can be hugely beneficial, but you need to go deep. Depending on the duration, Zone 6 deep. Do these for a few months, and see what happens to your anaerobic power. Again: big effort, big recovery. Do them on at least equal rest, but take as much time as you need to wrap your head around going again.
3) Tractor pulls. They're like standing starts, but for triathlete converts who don't yet want to sprint out of the saddle (I got pretty good at these). But seriously, they're great for strengthening everything from your ankles to your nipples. Here's the idea: Biggest gear, rolling at about 20rpm, fanny planted firmly on the saddle. Limiting upper body movement as much as possible, brace your entire body and accelerate as hard as you can. When your cadence hits 70, it's over. That's it. Take at least 3 minutes rest, but again, Mo' Rest, Mo' Better.
So there you have it: all you have to do in order to start to maybe one day think about being a decent racing cyclist is turn yourself inside out on a consistent basis to the point where you feel like you may throw up and pass out or die, or both. Check back tomorrow for the opposite side of the equation: quickness.
In the meantime, enjoy!