Developing my speed has been an interesting, and at times also frustrating task. Track cyclist’s speed is a combination of two factors. Strength and leg speed. Because of my background the first has been the easier part. Not easy, but EASIER than the latter. I have spent quite a lot of time understanding the leg speed and have arrived to some conclusions I though would be nice to share with you.
Reading through a whole bunch of articles about sprinting, power, etc. etc. I came a cross with “Optimal velocity for maximal power production in non-isokinetic cycling is related to muscle fibre type composition” by Hautier et. al. The graph on the right (from the same article) defines the relationship between fast twitch fibers in vastus lateralis muscle and optimal velocity on a friction loaded cycle ergometer. To summarize the already obvious graph, the higher percentage of fast twitch fibers the faster cadence. Makes sense, right? Now, this seems like a very bad news if you believe(d) rev-outs with minimal or no load develop your speed on race gears. If it is all about type II fibers, then that pretty much explains why the base training for trackie is gym.
Being a master category rider myself, the next piece of interesting information came from Marko T. Korhonen’s study of the effects of aging on sprint performance. The attachment on the right talks about progressive age-accosiated reduction in type II fiber area, which then is related to sprint performance. What it says to me is that the strength part stays on you longer than the speed, but that the speed is in constant decline from 30 years onwards. Thanks, like I didn’t already know I’m 20 years late here…
I have experienced a sort of cadence ceiling with my race gears that keep me from going any faster, even though I sometimes felt I had the strength to do that. At times it was due to the fatigue, but not always. I’m hopeful that part of the cadence limit is due to the fact I’m still somewhat new to the sport and have not reached my full potential. That at lease sounds better than “I’m too old to spin any faster”! But as I say that I have to recognize the cold fact might as well be that this is as good as it gets. Cadence wise, people, cadence wise…
In the light of the above I think I better focus on the strength/power side of the equation. Translating that to power to power-on-bike is something I’ve learned during the past year. If indeed getting faster is about increasing the type II fiber area, then the best way I know to accomplish that is to lift heavy and lift fast. Maybe if I get more power my legs will spin faster too! I will keep doing – and perhaps even increase the amount of speed drills (slightly under geared). Anyway, I’m back to square one.
“Pain is weakness leaving the body” just took a whole new meaning.
Quick edit: I recently heard that Jose Escuredo rode the 10.391s flying 200m in Manchester with a 112″ gear. That is about 133rpm. Yeah, I need more power!