Best single session for crits

Discussion in 'Cycling Training' started by Yonni, May 15, 2010.

  1. Yonni

    Yonni New Member

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    Next year I'm planning on racing some criteriums. It'll be my first time but I think it could be my best discipline - don't have the staimna for TTs and far too heavy/low powered for climbing. I've always had a decent sprint finish (as a runner and a cyclist) and like the idea of the power burst/recovery/power idea of a criterium as well as the tactics. My question is what is your best session for training for a criterium. I was thinking of a tough spin class to simulate race conditions. Suggestions please...
     
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  2. daveryanwyoming

    daveryanwyoming Well-Known Member

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    Well the 'best single session for crits' is probably microintervals like Bill Black's Hour of Power (HOP) workouts where you ride extended periods at Tempo or higher but burst up to double that power or more for ten to fifteen seconds on regular intervals such as once per minute or once every other minute. It'll give you a solid Threshold workout, teach you to accelerate quickly and recruit muscle groups on demand and train you to recover in motion from repeated anaerobic efforts. They're hard and not something I'd do every day, but they're pretty useful if you're targeting crits.

    Just to be clear, much of the fitness you need to be successful at crits is the same to do well in road races or time trials. IOW, there's no getting around sustained metabolic fitness or the ability to sustain relatively high power for extended durations even in events like crits. It may not seem that way with the repeated hard bursts, but it's your sustainable power or metabolic fitness that will determine how many of those bursts you can handle and how quickly you recover from the hardest to go again.

    So do some searches on HOP or microintervals and see what folks are doing but don't neglect building basic sustainable fitness with SST (Sweet Spot Training) and focused FTP work like the classic 2x20 Threshold intervals. There's plenty of information on this site and elsewhere about how that stuff works and if you want to do well in crits you'll need more than the short bursts.

    Good luck,
    -Dave



     
  3. Yonni

    Yonni New Member

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    Thanks Dave, that's given me plenty to think about. I'm hoping that this year's training will give me a good base which I can then fine tune in the New Year. You're answer was exactly the sort of advice I was hoping to get from someone more experienced than me. I've only been on this forum a few weeks but everyone seems pretty clued up here and really helpful. I really appreciate it
     
  4. smaryka

    smaryka Member

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    Not sure what crits you're targetting up there in Scotland, but why wait til next year? Surely there are some 4th cat circuit races you can do this season?

    A big part of crit racing (true for all racing, but maybe more true for crits due to their more technical nature) is learning *how* to race them. Cornering, positioning, moving up the bunch safely, holding a wheel, riding in the middle of a 60+ rider pack comfortably, all that stuff. I have seen many many new riders -- strong ones even -- go out the back of the bunch because they can't hold a wheel, are nervous in a group and sit at the back... then a gap opens up a few wheels in front of them and they don't see it in time to close it, and their race is done.

    Just wondering why you want to wait when you still have the better part of the season to try it out and get the basics down while you continue to work on your fitness. The experience you'll get now will only make you better next year when you're more fit.
     
  5. Yonni

    Yonni New Member

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    I'm waiting for next year because we have a 4 month old baby so I'm training when I can rather than when I should so that I can give my wife a break. I'm also training for a tough sportive later in the year and wanted to concentrate on that rather than split training between the two types of event this year. I'm 43 so I'm not exactly going to set the world alight and I'm purely doing it because I want to know what it's like to race them. I don't have any great ambitions to reach cat 2 or anything (though if I show some talent for it who knows?).

    Forgot to say that there is a series of crits quite nearby in April once a week on a Thursday night which is pretty handy for me. That's what sparked my curiosity in the first place.
     
  6. smaryka

    smaryka Member

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    Re. new baby and giving wife a break, fair enough! :D

    But re. the two different events, you will find that racing brings on a whole new kind of fitness, and crits/circuits in particular will really help build your sustainable aerobic power as they tend to be completely "on" for a solid hour. So I wouldn't write off racing as training for a sportive. After all, I did road races and crits all last year as part of my training for two Ironman triathlons (hard aerobic intervals will do wonders for your fitness at all speeds/distances). I stopped about 6 weeks out from each Ironman because I needed to spend more long hours on my TT bike and because I was wary of crashing and getting injured in road races.

    Not sure if you're a member of a club at all, but club chaingangs and fast group rides are a great way to ease into racing skills and improve your fitness without the commitment of buying a racing license, paying to enter, etc. And with less risk of crashing too.
     
  7. Yonni

    Yonni New Member

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    I've been out with the local (only?) club around here a few times but they're chaingangs go out at 9.30 - 10.00 am on a Saturday and don't get back til 1.30 - 2pm. I'm a wedding photographer so I work a lot of Saturdays and when I don't i like to go out at 7.30-8am when the roads are still quiet and I can get back at a reasonable time to be with the family for the rest of the day. I got into cycling through triathlons and the tri club used to do smaller chaingangs so I do have some experience. I may join the road club and see if I can find some other folk to go out earlier with. There only seems to be one club in Edinburgh that has around 500 members (apparently) apart from the University club and a decent team that is a bit too good for me!
     
  8. swampy1970

    swampy1970 Well-Known Member

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    Yonni,

    For crits, not only do you need a fairly high level of fitness, you need really good bike handling skills. Given that you're from the fair city of Edinburgh, most crits will probably be held on fairly narrow streets (just to clarrify for the American folk - about 1/2 the width of a typical residential streets where diving around corners at 25+mph isn't an option even for the likes of Malcolm Elliot or Mark Cavendish).

    I just googled Edinburgh Crit - cobbles and a great big fecking hill. SWEET! That street looks wider than I remember seeing in Edinburgh.

    [​IMG]

    I'd hazzard a guess that there's a few 'chaingangs' that are organized by local clubs during the week - very fast, near road race pace, runs that last for a 90 minutes to a couple of hours during June/July. Use these to get used to sitting on a wheel and become comfortable, at speed, in the bunch.

    Take a look in the windows of the good bike shops frequented by racing cyclists - there may be some info about midweek crits or races.

    A coach isn't a necessity, however a good senior level coach will attract good riders and be able to help with all the 'other stuff' that isn't directly related to increasing power on a bike. Cycling Training with ABCC Coaches - Home Page

    British Cycling / Home - get the handbook and see where all the races are. Enter a bunch of races just for fun - the only way to really prep for an event is to do other events first. You'll likely be shocked at how fast things are at first, especially when someone really puts the hammer down.

    About the "training for a sportive and training for racing" concern. If you can get close to fitness to race then a sportive event would likely be easier than if you'd just trained specifically to ride the sportive event. Figure that a long distance ride is basically ridden at a percentage of what you could sustain for about an hour. I rarely train more than 2 hours but it's normally a fairly hard effort but I use this to ride long events (200 miles over 8 passes with over 20,000ft of climbing). I just figure out what percentage of effort I can sustain based on duration, and when required, altitude. The same principle is used by the time trialists who compete in the BBAR series (50, 100miles and 12 hours)The only really big remaining difference is 'saddle time' and being comfortable on the bike for that length of time and nutrition.
     
  9. Yonni

    Yonni New Member

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    That picture is of Victoria Street which is a hell of a lot steeper than it looks. I'm guessing it was part of the nocturne series of races last summer which David Millar won. The crits I'm thinking of are out of town near the airport on a tarmac (asphalt) surface.
     
  10. CalicoCat

    CalicoCat Member

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    I've been reading this thread with great interest. I'm a road race specialist and have good power over the long haul, and I climb pretty well thanks to a good W/kg ratio. However, most of the races in my area are crits and I find myself going up against sprinters and struggling to get top 10 finishes.

    So, workouts geared specifically to training this energy system are must!!!
     
  11. Yonni

    Yonni New Member

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    So perhaps my question should really have been "what is the single most important skill to be succesful in crits" and then base a training programme around that. All my training starts with a base period so I am not neglecting basic sustainable power. It's the fine tuning in the build phases that I was curious about. I've had a look at HOP & SST now and will incorporate these from next month (I started late this year due to becoming a father for the first time) as well as the spin sessions & hill reps. I think I'm spending more time writing a training plan than actually training!
    Thanks for all the pointers guys.
     
  12. smaryka

    smaryka Member

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    Having just raced a crit of sorts (the Hillingdon circuit in west London, not exactly technical) and sat in the bunch comfortably but gotten trounced at the finish, I can say:
    -- positioning! for every rider that overtakes you, you need to take two back
    -- cornering: mastering that smooth braking/holding a line/accelerating motion
    -- positioning! the balls to get/stay where you need to be
    -- sprinting: the right gear, the right cadence, the right timing
    -- positioning! knowing which wheels to be behind

    I'm not bad at cornering and relative to the average female racer I'm not a bad sprinter, but my positioning is terrible. I lack the mental desire and focus for "position maintenance" so always end up far from where I want to be in the last couple of laps. If I could fix that I might end up with some top 10-15 finishes in a national series women's crit rather than 35th. But the truth is I'm pretty small and very wary of crashes so in the end I guess I lack the guts for the argy-bargy. Give me a hill climb finish any day!
     
  13. swampy1970

    swampy1970 Well-Known Member

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    There is no single skill that needs to be worked on as this may vary from course to course.

    If you have a narrow street based crit then you'll need to replace your testicles with a pair of cannon balls and get used to that "whoa sh1t" feeling when Billy NoFear is taking you around corners that require you to basically brush up against each curb (apex and exit) whilst dodging the grids/drains (which for our American brethern, aren't built nicely into the curb - they're on the edge of the road and can act as bike holders and are made from cast iron and painted ie very slippery even when dry.) You'll also need to put in a good effort nearly every single corner. If you're lacking in one of those two skills then you'll have to compensate with the other. Lacking in both? You'll be off the back pretty quick. Descending tight and twisty hills is good training for the cornering aspect - especially getting used to being off the brakes mid corner (brake before - not during and if you do need to brake slightly, feather the rear). Aim to carry momentum through the corner as the less speed you lose in the turns the less you have to accelerate. It sounds obvious but the basic problem that most people have with tight crits in their category is losing too much speed in the corners.

    If it's a fairly wide and open course, there will likely be a faster average speed. In this case it's more of a bigger gear, wheel sucking affair. Learn to be comfortable with riding a couple of inches behind (dependant on the relative wind direction) the guy infront without having to stare at his wheel, don't panic when people brake and learn to use your peripheral vision more.

    One rule for both types of crit - stay near the front. First ten to fifteen. It's easier to take turns on the front than it is to yo-yo on and off the back and you'll avoid the crashes and be less likely to get mixed up with people who are getting dropped.
     
  14. CalicoCat

    CalicoCat Member

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    Oh, this could have been written by me!!!!!!!! (except for the being a good sprinter part. I have good power, but somehow have trouble translating that into a good sprint . . . need to work on that).
     
  15. daveryanwyoming

    daveryanwyoming Well-Known Member

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    IME, those issues are very closely related. Folks think a lot about the sprint in terms of the 5 to 10 second burst to of speed and power to the line but it's your positioning in the final laps and through the final corners that makes or breaks most sprints. Back out the last couple of laps:

    - You want to be one of the first riders out of the final corner unless the straightaway is very, very long.
    - You'll need to be one of the first riders into turns 3 and 4 if you want to get onto the straight with a clean shot at the line. (expect a backside jump just before turn 3 in most short course 4 corner crits, think about making that move if no one else does)
    - You'd better be in the top five or six all the way around the final lap as it's hard as hell to move up with the finish so near
    - If you haven't kept yourself in the front ten then you'd better get up there with at least 2 laps to go and be ready to defend that forward position by riding hard and fast, jumping around anyone that slows, jumping if surges come from the back and being ready to stick your nose out in the wind if folks up front start getting cagey, slow a bit and the entire back half of the field starts swarming up both sides.

    The point is that many folks that actually train their sprints but can't get results in a sprint really suffer from positioning during the race and especially in the closing laps. Everybody wants to jump off someone's wheel which is great if you can pull it off but lacking team mates who'll keep you up front and lead you out (which most lower category racers don't have even if a lot of team mates are in the race) you've got to be willing to do some serious work in the closing laps just to earn your chance to sprint for the line.

    If you're struggling with sprinting and aren't getting a clean shot at the line in the final few hundred meters than you probably need to work on positioning and overall end game more than just the sprint itself.

    Good luck,
    -Dave
     
  16. smaryka

    smaryka Member

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    Good advice all around. Guys like Cav make it look easy when the truth is, the team does most of the work for him getting him to the right position so he can unleash his final sprint and dominate everyone. Watch Boonen if you want to see what it's like to have a great sprint but no teammates bringing you into position in the last 500m... he's going off whatever wheels he can find, and only about 50% of the time actually successful. If he had the HTC leadout train he'd be winning a lot more often. IMHO.
    For the non North Americans (I count myself as one because I've never raced in North America), what does turn 3 and 4 mean? And what's a backside jump?
     
  17. swampy1970

    swampy1970 Well-Known Member

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    I'm guessing it refers to racing around a city block with all of 4 corners...

    arf, arf...

    ... going off the above description - it's something you do around No 2. Turn 2 that is.

    McEwan was the king of getting to the front unassisted. Cav could probably do the same thing because he has the same confidence, cocky attitude and pure speed. Boonen has lacked the 'kick' he had a few years ago...
     
  18. daveryanwyoming

    daveryanwyoming Well-Known Member

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    In a typical US short crit course the distance between the last couple turns is fairly short on the order of a couple of hundred meters and the finish is often 200 to 300 meters from the final corner, sometimes less. Turns 3 and 4 on a four corner crit are the final two bends and on courses that tight you pretty much need to be right at the front as in the first three or four riders out of that final turn. If it's a twistier course with say 8 corners like one I raced recently then I'm talking about corners 7 and 8.

    What I mean by a 'backside jump' is a hard move before those final two corners if they're fairly close together, not a full out sprint but a big move nonetheless that typically gets a handful of riders clear of the field and gives them the clean line through the final bend where the sprint lights up in earnest. It always seems too soon, and would be if there's one or more leadout trains keeping things strung out but the folks that make that move win an awful lot of amateur crits around here and my wins and best finishes have come when I either launch that attack on the backside of the course or jump on the wheels of someone else making that move. Playing it cagey and waiting to jump out of the final turn usually leaves me boxed in with nowhere to go as folks swarm towards the finish and a lower placing even if I sprint well.

    That's been my experience but I've raced solo a lot and have learned to ride opportunistically without the benefit of an organized leadout. I think that's more common than folks like to admit particularly for riders that haven't had a lot of luck in sprints and hence don't have team mates willing to sacrifice their finish for them.

    -Dave
     
  19. CalicoCat

    CalicoCat Member

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    Totally agree with the above post. This is exactly how I failed at my crit last sat. I didn't make a big enough move before turn 3 and came out of turn 4 too far back (6-10), boxed in, and swarmed at the line for a whopping 16th place/pack finish.
     
  20. LB CYCLIST

    LB CYCLIST New Member

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    alot of good info here, thanks
     
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