Criterium Training Workouts

Training and fitness are only part of being able to race criteriums, but without the right types of fitness you will not do well in criteriums.  Criteriums also require tactics, skills, luck, and aggressiveness.

In order to improve the physical systems involved with Criterium racing, you will have to suffer and suffer a lot.  Growing up as a competitive swimmer taught me the benefits of hard intervals and the benefits of suffering.   When you have a hard day it needs to be balls out hard, the lactic acid needs to be filling up in your arms (if you have done hard intervals you know what I mean), and your body wants to puke to make you stop.  You can not do this for more than three days in a row, and then you need to let your body recover.  In order to affect the Anaerobic Glcolysis or Creatine Phosphate system, you need to go hard and then let the physical system over compensate.  

I use the following training plan:  3 days on with 2 days off for 4 cycles and then 5 days recovery.  This type of training plan allows you to push your body hard and then let if recover, but this cycle does not fit well into the conventional 7 day week.  It does not always work well for weekend rides with the team/club.  Your body systems don’t know what a week is but it knows what it will do when subjected to physical stress.  I find that the first day of the hard workouts is okay but painful, the second day is always easier to hit higher power numbers but feels worse, and the third day hurts and is really hard to high the power numbers that you hit on first two days.  The third day is the key to this type of schedule because you have pushed your physical systems hard but you need to take them past comfortable, and it will be hard.  Your mind will tell you to stop, but you need to tell your legs to go harder!  As you hit the 4th cycle of 3 days on/2 day off, you will feel tired but will be able to hit some high power numbers during your intervals.  When you come off of the 5 day rest cycle, your body will have recovered and will be able hit higher power numbers and handle more or longer intervals.  This is why we train hard to get faster!

My workouts are focused around hitting VO2max efforts, shorter Lactic acid, and sprints.  I like my VO2max intervals to be shorter 3 to 5 mins with an equal amount of rest.  I always start with 3 to 6 intervals so that my legs are nice and warmed up.  As I gain fitness, I will reduce the rest portion of these intervals to increase the VO2max effect.  These efforts are always as hard as you can go for the intervals.  The effort should consistent so you need to pace yourself on these efforts, but these should be well above your LT level.  These are not easy but they are necessary to build fitness to handle breakaway efforts.

Now, the pain.  The Anaerobic Glycolysis system is the energy system mainly used during efforts of 30 to 90 seconds of hard efforts, and this is the energy system that produces lactic acid, i.e. what you think is pain.  I like to start off with 60 second intervals.  When you go all for about 30 seconds the lactic acid builds up quickly, but you have to push through.  I typically will do 4 to 6 intervals with 4 to 5 mins of rest.  I like to hit it hard and then settle into a high power output and then try to hold it for the rest of the interval.  These are the efforts that will allow you to create separation from the pack during a race. 

Sprinting efforts help develop the Creatine Phosphate system and build muscles and coordination for sprinting.  The Creatine Phosphate system is the energy system used for short and high power 8-10 seconds of all out sprinting effort.  The CP system is not as painful as the Anaerobic Glcolysis system but requires all out efforts with long recovers between intervals.  Long recover is critical because the CP system takes longer to replenish the energy system.  I will do 3 to 6 intervals of 8-10 seconds with 5 to 10 minutes of rest.  I save these for the last part of the workout.  The body is fatigued from VO2 and lactic acid intervals but you still can go hard. 

 Ride hard,

Steve