Training for criteriums!
What makes a good crit racer? Is it the most powerful sprint at the end, someone who is good at timetrials, someone who hides in the pack and waits or someone who attacks repetitively hoping to wear down their rivals or form a breakaway? The answer is all and none of the above. Each crit is different. Factors such as a technical vs non technical course, the eagerness of fellow races for an aggressive race and knowing how to position yourself in the bunch relative to the above all play a part. One thing that is a constant in criterium racing is that you will have to sprint, repeatedly.
Repeat sprint-ability (RSA) is an athletes ability to produce high power outputs, in micro bursts (10-20 seconds) consistently throughout the duration of an event. In a crit, this type of sprinting can come in the form of exiting a corner, forming a break, chasing down a break, sprinting for intermediate sprint primes or the final kick to the line for the overall victory. How do we develop our RSA? The answer is not as straightforward as you may think.
Before we go into training our RSA, we need to address how we will be riding the other 90% of a crit. For most people, this other 90% will be ridden at threshold +/- 10%. In order to be a strong crit racer, we need to have a strong threshold. Furthermore, even though criteriums are almost always decided by a sprint (breakaway or bunch kick), the criterium is not a sprint event (in a sport science sense). The crit is still an event for the endurance based cyclists, and in order to be an endurance based cyclist we need ENDURANCE! That means slow zone 1 and zone 2 based endurance rides to build a strong foundation in the offseason, and then maintenance of this endurance in the preseason and throughout the season. There are no shortcuts. To be a good cyclist, you need to spend a period of your year riding slow and long.
Now let’s focus on RSA specifically. To train RSA is a tricky one for any coach. There are ways to do it, and workouts that specialise in this exact thing, but I would be hesitant to prescribe them during crit season as by racing the crit, you’re already training this quantity. Instead, I’d opt to train a person’s aerobic endurance and work on making them as energy efficient as possible while also not building too much training stress. If you’re racing criteriums twice per week, you’re already getting a significant amount of RSA training. Any more of this type of training and we risk burning our athletes out physically and mentally.
When do we train RSA? The only time I would train RSA is in the month leading up to crit season (athletes goals permitting). At this point in time, you’ve done your base endurance work and hopefully have already been completing some higher intensity rides for the month previous. TABATA style intervals are great for training RSA specifically, but I’d be hesitant to prescribe these more than once weekly in conjunction with other training rides so as not to over fatigue our athletes.
Now is the perfect time to start training specifically for crits. Get in touch to find out more and please feel free to comment below if you have any questions.