1. If you want to work on speed you can do something along these lines
. It's not just grinding a huge gear, it's about turning it over. When I (used to) work on speed I'd start my regular sprints in gears that I could turn over pretty well. Usually I started in the 14. Then I'd try the 13, be over geared, and work on the 14 more. Then the 13. Then the 12. Finally the 11. It took me a full season to get close to being able to turn over the 11 and maybe 3-4 years before I could do it consistently.
If you watch the pros they spin incredibly fast for a long time. I'm always in amazement when I see a solid P/1 race because the guys are so fluid, so fast, and they pedal so fast. They're turning over huge gears though, but they started by turning over smaller gears fast.
2. Junior gears aren't bad. In one race (YouTube clip here
) I ended up with the equivalent of a 53x15 (39x11) due to a mechanical. Okay, fine, I missed out on the breaks and such, but I don't make them no matter what gearing I have. We had a sprint out of the group, and there were a couple guys that I have a hard time beating. I went early, the best way to win using lower gears, and ended up winning the field sprint. The guy directly behind me, Kevin, was using a 55x11. It's not just about gearing. Having said that I normally run a 53x11 and for the longest time I ran a 54x11. However I used to be able to turn that over. Now a 53x11 is a bit high for me.
In other races Kevin has slaughtered me. Low def race here
, but two views (one from another rider). I had worn out all my 11T cassettes so I was using a 12T cassette. I jumped in the 12, it was a bit high, and that was that. THere's a high def race at Rentschler Field where he kills me at the line but I can't find it right now.
At any rate Junior gears aren't bad. They teach you to pedal and they give you an awesome base to build on. I raced Juniors for 3 years and the gear limit at the time was a 53x15, not the 14. I won 3 of the first 4 Senior races I did (of course they were Cat 4s but still). Locally there are some really strong Juniors that regularly place really high in the category races.
3. Work on group riding skills. You have to learn them sometime if you want to mess around in races. Learn to bump side-to-side (you can do that on pavement judiciously, wear lots of clothing and helmet and all that). Learn touching your front wheel. Critical. Must do on grass as you are absolutely going to fall. Low speeds first. You want to learn how to stay up if someone violates the personal space around your front wheel (I call it the Sphere). I've had really hard contact on my front wheel without any problems. I've also had my share of falls due to front wheel contact (like someone crashing through my wheel or whatever). However if you fall in a race because someone touched your front wheel then you fell for no good reason. Lots and lots of people fall due to front wheel contact.
You can work on group riding skills on your easy days, or after a day of riding. Basically it's not a workout, it's a skills drill.
4. Finally, dev team stuff. You need to be strong and people will notice you. If you're not freakishly talented then, well, you better be a really good salesman or marketer and sell or market yourself really well. There are two locals that fit the "freakishly talented" definition. One is no longer a Junior. His second season as a Senior he raced for Jelly Belly. Now he races for California Berry. This year he got 3rd in the U23 TT, doing 490 watts for the TT. Just prior to that he lapped the Rent training race A field 3 times in an hour (mainly 1s and 2s), doing 450w during that race. So he's freakishly strong (in comparison I can do about 450w for a minute). He just ripped the legs off of the Junior fields around here. That gets you noticed. However he got signed by JB because when he was 18 or 19 he soloed for most of a P/1 race (46 laps out of 50?) and won in front of two JB riders as well as a bunch of pros and stuff. They called their director and said that there's this massive motor around here. He smoked them in another race, started the winning break, I think both JBs were in it, drove it, then attacked it and soloed to a win. They called their director again and he got a contract because of those two rides. He also got second in some stage race even though he's a big dude. Apparently he can climb 2-3 mile climbs no problem, it's the 10 mile ones that get him.
The other guy is still a Junior and has at least 5 national titles under his belt (crit and cross). He just signed with Airgas whatever dev team. He typically races the P/1/2 races, with his Junior gearing of course, and sometimes he comes close to winning (but he has to go at like 1k out and everyone knows it).
When I was a Junior the first freakishly strong Junior in the area I knew about was this kid named George Hincapie. He just cleaned up. When he started doing National Team stuff another guy showed up, with his brother. Frank and Mark McCormack. They race for Saturn for a while, Mark McCormack won Philly outright one year (Hincapie never could, even though it seemed like that was a target race for him). Frank won Fitchburg back when it was huge. Etc. Frank would race the Junior race, win, then sit at the front of the 1/2/3 race and drag the field around for 40 laps for his Senior age teammates. He made the inside spread of a Cannondale catalog because he was pulling and a slew of (Senior) Cannondale riders were just behind him. He raced for Fuji at the time. In that picture Frank was still a Junior, like 16 or 17 or 18 and he'd already won the Junior race earlier in the day, solo at something like 30 mph avg. Crazy. The one that wasn't as good was this guy Pat Morrisey. He got a bunch of 6th and 7ths at Nationals. He won the Jr TT by something like 5 minutes one year. He actually carried a spare tire because if he flatted he could change his tire and still win by a minute or two. A little while ago he won one of the Masters Cross Nationals, but he was off the bike for many years due to a back problem. He too was just crazy strong.
So the moral of the story is that it's fine to dream, you can write down stuff like Lemond did when he was 16 (Olympics, Worlds, Tour), but the reality is that you need to be freakishly good to make above a certain level.
Best wishes with your racing, it's a great sport.