This is your body on squats...and a bit too much food.
One of the components of bicycle racing is force production. It is essential for both climbing and sprinting. If you want to be good at crits, you need to sprint. If you want to be good at road races(for the most part) you need to climb. The more you can squat the better you will be at these things. More importantly, it is a training standard that you can hold yourself to with absolute certainty. A lot of cyclists will say you can do your force production training on the bike by pushing a bigger gear. You can, and I would recommend it in addition to weight training. The reason I prefer weight training for force production is that you know when you fail at a certain level of resistance. When you push a larger gear you may slip 10 RPM or shift down without noting the time/distance you spent in that gear. These things bring about ambiguity in your workout progress. A power meter can mitigate this problem, but most beginners don’t have power meters.
Now bear in mind a consistent program is better than an optimal one. If you hate lifting, you don’t need to lift that much. If you love it, then do it. Just know that when you get blasted on a sprint by some fat guy who barely kept up with you throughout the race it’s your fault.
But what if I am an underweight super skinny cyclist who can’t squat good, and want to learn to do other stuff good too?
Learn to keep higher cadence than heavier guys during sprints. Also, squat more. Spending 3 months in the off season doing a linear progression squat program where you squat twice a week can take you from being a terrible sprinter to one that at least stays close to the other racers. You may also find you have higher top end speed because that tough gear was much easier to turn.
You should be consuming a shitload of protein as well for this. I know that you think you’ll bulk up ridiculously, but that’s simply not true. You might weigh a bit more after a few months of squatting, but you’ll notice that weight isn’t slowing you down. Plus, if you cut calories from your normal diet to allow the protein in you will maintain your weight. You may gradually lose weight as increased muscle tissue would allow you to burn more calories. Make sure you know how many grams of protein you’re getting. Don’t estimate. Seriously, you’ll save yourself a huge hassle.
But what if I am fat, and want to lose weight rather than get strong?
Instead of attacking anyone personally, I would like to make known that this is a difficult issue. It would seem that heavier riders are at a great disadvantage when it comes to the sport. There is no easy way to put this, but if you are doing anything other than a crit with zero hills you are experiencing a big battle. Entry level road races and hill climbs will make you look far worse than you actually are. If you are on a diet that is working, continue losing weight before lifting. If you are stuck at a plateau weight, and it’s under 220 lbs. you should lift. I know that most of my lifting buddies would say lift no matter what, but being a reasonable weight will do way more for you in more types of races. When I was in abysmal shape during the A&M Race I caught up to a heavy racer and passed him. Had I not flatted out I would have beaten him. Bear in mind I was in really, really, really bad shape for this race.
These short and fast races are a good squatter’s dream. I was actually not horrible in them last year. If you want to win them you should know your 5RM, your 10RM, and your 20RM. In the off season do a widowmaker once every two weeks or so. If you fail to hit depth you did not do that widowmaker. See how much you can do, and make it a point to increase it when you don’t need to worry about training on the bike. If you can bring a 20RM up anywhere near 300 or 2xBodyweight, whichever is higher, you should be able to outsprint some of the track guys. Your 5RM should be more your focus though.
Hills, lots of hills. I have never done a road race that didn’t have a few hills that were actually pretty tough. If you hate the hills, then strength work can help. I hardly ever have to leave the big chainring on hills in Norman now. If I’m really tired I do, but there are some surprisingly steep hills here. I’m way better than I used to be though. Squatting will make you turn bigger gears, as well as help increase your overall speed on hills. Seriously, do them. As your season approaches you can do them less and less, but they are so beneficial to cycling it is insane.
There’s always gonna be that whiny guy that refuses to sully his pure training by going into that ghastly room with people getting swole. Make sure you do your part to embarrass him when race season rolls around. When he asks you what you did to get so good have a hearty laugh.