But, acceleration is something that can be gained in a relatively short amount of time. And ... acceleration will pay off, big time.
The ability to accelerate quickly will enable you to make more breaks, cross gaps in races, and participate in many a sprint situation. Yeah, there may be someone with a bit more overall speed who comes around you once in awhile (meowbox hill anyone? ... and a crit the weekend before, now that i think on it ... dammit!) - but if you practice and achieve your acceleration ~ you'll be a player in the sprints more than you thought you'd have the potential for.
I've mentioned what I call "technique sprints" in the past. These are sprints that last 20 - 50 seconds, done on the 4 - 6 minute rest regime. Trust me, you do 6 of these and you'll be feeling woozy ... you do 10 and you're going to rip folks legs off.
once a week = progress
twice a week = you're bloody serious about this shit
Technique sprints are focused on combining and practicing the elements of acceleration. Elements such as breathing, gearing choice, shifting, leg speed, vision (foreward and behind), relaxation...
Breathing ~ one of the weirdest things I see some folks do as they start their sprint is ... scrunch up their entire body in one big clench ... like their going to heft up a huge box or pinch off an uncooperative loggie. Sprints last many, many seconds. In fact, some sprints have lasted a couple of eternities, as I recall. Ouch.
You need oxygen to sprint. You need it desperately. So, BREATHE! My favorite technique to get more O2 into my system is to exhale a relatively slow and deep breath as I begin the first few pedalstrokes of my sprint. By letting out a nice long push of breath as you start the sprint, you force the body into taking a big ole gulp AND you really can improve your overall relaxation of body and mind.
Gearing choice ~ don't shift to start a sprint! When you sprint, you should be in the right gear and should not need to shift. You don't won't to overload your muscles by slamming down two gears to start your acceleration. All your doing is flooding your muscles and slowing your body down. Your first 4 or 5 pedalstrokes can be quick, lively things that shoot your speed up. And, you get to not alert the universe to your intention by the "CLANK, CLANK" of your drive train.
Shifting ~ this is one of the keys to excellent acceleration and ONLY comes through much, much practice. You've got to be completely in tune with your bike, in this regard. You've got to reach a level of intuition with your machine that moves you to shift at just the right moment and only 1 cog at a time. You should be able to downshift and upshift during your sprint. Practice, practice, practice. Mostly, it's about shifting during the dead-zone of your pedalstroke. Shifting under extreme power loads does nothing for acceleration. Your shifting should be smooth, quiet, and timed just right.
Leg Speed ~ sprint at a high rpm.
If you need to work on leg speed - do your sprints on a slight decline. Trust me, it really helps.
Vision~ as you are out of the saddle, sprinting ... practice glancing down at your saddle. Then, after you become comfortable looking briefly at your saddle, move your line of sight just slightly over through that gap between your elbow and your hip. On both sides. Then, when you get familiar with that, practice glancing down to look through the gap created by your butt and your saddle. Once you get that, you'll be able to accelerate quickly and check to see who's on your wheel and which direction their coming. Very useful.
Relaxation ~ the most important element. The more relaxed you are, the more power you will generate. Breathing is how I remind myself to relax - what will your technique be? Twiddling your toes? Opening your fingers from the bar? Running your tongue around your lips? mmmm...
The more relaxed you are, the faster you will accelerate, the more precise your shifting will be, the longer your acceleration will last, and the faster you will recover.
shit ... gotta go.