Target the power fundamental to criterium racing with these five workouts for crit racers. Use them to fine-tune your established fitness, build essential skills, or introduce criterium-specific interval training to your schedule.


How to Train for Criteriums

Criteriums are a fast-paced closed-circuit road race. With a loop typically between one and two miles long, athletes lap the course for thirty to sixty minutes, depending on their category. Characterized by their high speed, dynamic tactics, and sustained intensity, these races can be exciting to watch. 

To be competitive in a crit, you need solid aerobic and anaerobic fitness, excellent sprint timing, and the ability to repeat hard efforts. The best way to attain this type of fitness is with a structured training plan specific to criteriums. A crit specialty plan is composed of workouts that progressively target the energy systems used in criterium racing. With integrated rest and strategically organized training stress, a criterium plan will bring about vital physical adaptations and bring you to peak fitness for criterium racing. 

You can read more here with the complete guide to criterium racing and training: The Criterium Racing Guide. In the meantime, if you want to get a sense of Crit specialty training, you can try these five workouts.

5 Go-To Workouts for Criterium Racers

These five workouts are a general representation of the power needed to handle a criterium’s diverse physical demands. You can use them to introduce crit-specific training to your schedule or to test your current skills. If you’ve already completed a training plan, these workouts are excellent go-to’s when you want to sharpen established skills. 

With that said, it’s important to keep in mind that the combination of these five workouts lacks the progressive structure that a training plan has. In short, there’s no integrated rest, and if you don’t have established fitness, these workouts may be too challenging to complete. You can find close alternatives to these workouts that achieve the same objective. If the workouts used in these examples aren’t in your current range of abilities, use the TrainerRoad workout library or TrainNow to find an activity with a lower Workout Level and similar structure.

1. Anaerobic Capacity

TrainerRoad anaerobic capacity workout: Petrone

A crit’s relentless pace will repeatedly bring you above your threshold power into the anaerobic capacity zone. Challenging your anaerobic capacity in training can improve your ability to withstand these types of repeated bursts of intensity. Furthermore, if you can raise your anaerobic capacity, your competitor’s attacks won’t feel as substantial, and your attacks will be more challenging to follow. 

You can successfully raise your anaerobic capacity with workouts like Petrone. Petrone improves your ability to generate power quickly and activate muscle fibers immediately. At the same time, your muscles work to maintain this high power output; your mind has to learn how to cope with this level of discomfort. Petrone includes anaerobic capacity intervals that increase in duration and decrease in intensity before they reverse. Four repetitions of this interval structure supply you with 60 minutes of anaerobic training.

2. Sustained VO2 Max

TrainerRoad sustained VO2 max workout: Ochsenhorn

When you follow an attack or initiate one of your own, you’ll need the power to make it stick. Likely, you’ll need to be able to sustain power in the VO2 max zone. Sustained VO2 workouts are one of the most effective ways to train this specific power and increase your ability to maintain high power outputs repeatedly. They are challenging and fatiguing but can create a very high training stimulus in minimal time.

Ochshenhorn will build greater muscular endurance and mental toughness by working at a high percentage of your maximal oxygen uptake with repeats that thoroughly stress your aerobic system. Ochsenhorn includes four intervals lasting four and a half minutes, spent at 106% FTP. A nine-minute and forty-second recovery valley separates each VO2 interval. If you can’t yet hold your VO2 max power for this long, there are numerous alternatives to this workout in the TrainerRoad workout library.

3. Sustained Power

TrainerRoad Sustained Power Workout: Monument

There will be plenty of time below your threshold power between sprints, attacks, and breakaways. Because crits generally maintain a high pace, time spent below your FTP will likely be in higher power zones like sweet spot and threshold. Doing sweet spot workouts can improve your ability to sustain these power zones and improve muscular endurance as a whole. 

If you’re looking for a workout to target your sustained power abilities, Monument is a great choice. Monument is a muscular endurance workout designed to help you output more power for longer durations. With the integrated sprint-like efforts at the beginning of each sustained effort, you’ll have to push through some fatigue during the sustained efforts, much like you might during a future race. This particular workout includes four intervals, each with a thirty-second start followed by six minutes spent in the sweet spot zone.

4. Aerobic Endurance

TrainerRoad endurance workout: Bays

While crits are known for their high intensity, they are still endurance-based. Your aerobic base lays the foundation for the high intensity and sustained power used in races. Actively completing endurance-based workouts that challenge your aerobic energy system is one of the best ways to build robust endurance.

A great endurance workout for criterium racers is Bays. The majority of Bays is spent at the high end of the aerobic endurance power zone. Inbetween the sustained intervals, there are four twenty-second sprints. The time spent in the endurance zone reinforces your aerobic base, while the integrated sprints improve muscular recruitment patterns and your ability to sprint in a state of fatigue.

5. Race Simulation

TrainerRoad over-under race simulation: Hunger -4

If you want to put your race preparation to the test, a race simulation is a perfect workout. A race simulation combines sustained power and VO2 max intervals in the form of over-under intervals. Add in inconsistent bouts of rest with a dynamic adjustment of intervals, and you have a race simulation. With plenty of time spent near and above threshold, these workouts can be both mentally and physically challenging. 

Hunger -4 is a pyramid formatted race simulation. This workout targets your aerobic power, pain tolerance, muscular recruitment, and muscular endurance. In a reasonably short workout, you can really put your limits to the test and accumulate lots of time at VO2max power and sweet spot.

Looking for more workout suggestions from the TrainerRoad workout library? Check out Coach Chad’s 5 Favorite Workouts to Increase Your FTP for additional options. 



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Meghan Kelley

Meghan Kelley is a writer, XC MTB racer, and an all-around fan of trails, rocks, dirt, and the desert. She's passionate about helping cyclists get faster and finding the best mid-ride snacks.