A rider’s jump, either from low speed as in a track sprinter’s jump or acceleration for a roadie in a field sprint is really composed of two components. The first is the ability for muscles to fire rapidly or explosively. The second component is the muscular strength to propel the bike. Each element needs to be worked on and then combined.
Explosiveness is, in natural sprinters, a gift. You either have it or you don’t. Everyone has some of it, it’s just that the really fast guys and girls usually have a bunch of it. It’s fast twitch muscle. Even if your top speed is 2 mph over your all-day speed, you can still develop a fair degree of explosiveness. The first approach this time of year is once or twice a week to engage in a plyometric workout in the weight room. There are great books on the subject available and if you are lucky, there will be an instructor in the gym you use who can set up your plyo program. Remember to start slow and build up to any really difficult work. Please, no high (over 3 feet) jumps.
On the bike you can do a couple of different exercises for explosiveness. The first workout has you riding with a like-minded partner. Using fairly low gears (53x17,18) roll slowly side by side and take turns trying to surprise each other jumping. Go for 6-8 secs max. The idea is to react and explode out of the saddle to keep up with your partner. By keep the length down you can do 10-12 of these things without too much trouble.
The second on-bike workout has you riding alone. Again using fairly low gears, roll along at 15 mph or so and try to explode out of the saddle for a 100 yards or so. No bike rocking, no thrashing, just controlled explosiveness. Keep the arms fairly still, the hips over the pedals and concentrate on pulling up and pushing down at the same time. 6-8 of these guys should be fine for a workout.
Please do these workouts on the road. Do not use a trainer. One can do all kinds of goofy things on a trainer that if you try on the road will have you sliding lycra side down. If you want, you can try these workouts on the rollers. Just do it in the saddle using a pretty stout gear from low rpm’s.
Ok, now you have recruited every available fast-twitch muscle in your body. Great. Now you have to have the strength to make it really go. Two things are going to give you that strength. The weight room and strength work on the bike. Again, explain to the instructors at your gym what you are doing and have them set up a program for you, or do the reading to get the information you need. There are any number of variations of really good weight programs out. The only note of caution. There is no bigger crime than an athlete who loses a season of competition because of a weight room injury. If you won’t do it carefully and with proper technique, don’t do it at all.
Strength on the bike is created by using low repletion, high resistance riding. OK, so what’s that mumbo jumbo mean? Big gears, big head winds, big hills. Do work like this 10-30 seconds in duration. Big gear sprints up hill. Medium gears uphill into a head wind. Big gears into a head wind. The idea is to try to explode and accelerate against heavy resistance. Start a workout off with 3-4 efforts and work up to 8-10 efforts. Make sure you maintain form and don’t go into thrash mode. Pull up on the pedals. Keep the bike under you.
Now, you’re explosive, you’re strong, how do you go fast? Mike Walden (probably the greatest American coach) used to say, "If you want to sprint, you have to sprint." What he meant by this was that you should always be looking out for a sprinting opportunity. Set up city limits sign sprints... telephone pole sprints... uphill sprints. Sprint against anyone on a bike you can have a go at. Do it on club rides. Do it in training races. Race anyone who will with you at the track. Don’t let an opportunity pass you by. If you think you can sprint, than you can sprint.
Good luck, go fast and remember...no matter how crappy a sprinter you think you are, there is always someone slower!