Polarized zones for criteriums races?


Iam a cyclist who races criteriums. About 1.5 hours with laps between 1.5 and 2.5km with a lot of corners. So high intensive. When i look at my Time in Zone in a race, i see this:

But when i see at my whole season i see this, my race and training doesnt fit:

So my conclusion is that i dont train what iam racing. So maybe is it better to train like the polarized model? It look more like my racing time in zone.

Different coaches have different opinions, and of course its specific to an athlete, time of season, etc. No easy answers here.

TrainerRoad view: https://www.trainerroad.com/blog/criterium-racing/

Tailwind Coaching view: https://tailwind-coaching.com/2017/07/12/criterium-training-and-racing-tips/

FasCat view: https://fascatcoaching.com/tips/criterium-training/

Empricial Cycling view: https://www.trainingpeaks.com/blog/youre-training-too-hard-for-criteriums-heres-why/

I found this quote from Empirical Cycling article to be rather interesting:

" When one of my athletes won a national criterium championship, the questions my friends and consultees asked about her training all had a common thread: she must have done a lot of high-intensity training, right? The honest answer was no; besides racing she did no specific anaerobic or sprint training.

I stated above that those with the most consistent (not the highest power output) repeated sprint ability are the best aerobically trained. To see proof, look at some power files from another elite female road cyclist:"

So if you agree with that statement, maybe your current training is already focused on better aerobic training? Those charts don’t speak to the vo2 and anaerobic work you did, I’m assuming a good portion of it was focused on building anaerobic capacity/power/repeatability. Some will make the argument that polarized is better aerobic training.


thanx @bbarrera i can tell you that i do to less vo2 and anaerobic work… i think 1-2 vo2max trainings a year :laughing:, the rest is racing, sweetspot, tempo and z2…

I think that the lack of vo2max and anaerobic cap more a bottleneck of my training than the kind of zones…

I think if you watch criterium race analysis videos from Trainerroad or NorCal Cycling, they constantly point out changes to pack riding and technique that enable the racer to smooth out their power output and reduce the number of times they need to hit z6 / z7 / sprint. Things like letting space open up a little going into corners so you can maintain speed better and then not have to sprint out of corners. Obviously I don’t know you, but there may be changes you can make in-race to reduce the number of times you need to sprint.

On a macro level, I don’t think there is a sustainable way to make the proportions of your training time in zone match up with the race. To do that you would have had to spend 150+hrs in Z7 this year as opposed to 17min, I don’t think even track sprinters are going to have that much z7 time as a proportion of their overall volume.

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Thanks @Craig_G for your tips. The analysis videos indeed are helpfully but when i compare my powernumbers with other riders i always on the lower end of the zones compare other riders. I have the capacity to ride economical to the pack and leave space before corners…close gaps before corners etc

Power numbers for the hard efforts, correct? I’m not a coach and don’t have general advice, however 2016-2017 I was doing some all-out efforts (1-min and 4-min) and raised my anaerobic capacity (as measured in Xert and WKO) and short power (PRs). At the time I was using the CTS plans that are available with Strava Premium. Some of that was newbie gains I bought a road bike Dec 2015.

This year with a lot of aerobic work (no hard intervals) and some strength work I set power PRs at 1-2 sec and 14-19 sec, but 5 and 30 sec was ~100W below some PRs from late 2016 / early 2017. Hoping to set power PRs for all <30 second power in 2021 by working with a coach and focusing on more aerobic work, strength, and sprint training.

The only thing shared by 2016 and 2020 seasons was a lot of aerobic development.

FWIW and I’m not a coach.