Should I skip specialty phase? Dealing with the uncertainty of 2021 crit season

Hey folks,

Sorry in advance if this has already been covered by other topics, I couldn’t find something similar.

I’m fairly new to competitive cycling and I’m looking forward to be able to compete whenever it is safe to do so. I’m in no rush to compete, but I want to be as well prepared as possible. I’m using this time to improve my fitness, nutrition on/off bike and riding skills. I have been consistently training since May 2020 (https://www.trainerroad.com/app/career/guipuglia/calendar) and I have gone through SSBLV I, SSBLV II, General Build (?), SSBMV I, SSBMV II and I’m now at Short Power Build (Low volume). My current build phase will end on Feb 6th and I’m starting to think what I should do next.

Should I do the criterium phase now? Or should I skip it and go back to Base/Build/Specialty (through plan builder with no race)?

It is important to say that I will be adding some training drills (sprints) at least a day per week and I do plan to have an additional Sunday’s Z2 rides. I’m not forgetting the group rides, but I’m not incorporating them in my planning due COVID-19.

Thank you very much!
Best,

You can cycle base and build. This is also what plan builder suggests if you have events later in the year. If you are not certain when racing will resume I would alternate base (one block, not I and II) and build until you know for certain when racing will start. Then you can throw in a specialty block.

Assuming there is a season that lasts for a few months you don‘t Plan to peak for the first race anyhow.

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Thank you @florianduerr.

As I was writing it, something else came up. How should I time a recovery week? Would it be beneficial for long term gains?

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Hi TR gives Recovery weeks as part of Plan Builder.

You can always throw a rest week in by pushing the plan out by a week using the Plan builder facility and hence come back to the training where you left it.

You will only need a rest week for ( Holidays who is going anywhere just now ??) or if you are over training.

Rest week or two at end of season start of October allows you that freshness to return.

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Hi, recovery weeks are included in the blocks. So no need to add any as long as you are not super fatigued. Long term you take 2-4 weeks off from structured training at the end of the season (october / november).

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Just a note that if you do this, then you can’t go back and edit the plan; you have to delete and restart it. Caught me out.

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I think if the focus is crit racing then a great approach as alluded to above is to hit the first race of the season at the end of a Build phase, and then use races as part of your fine tuning and specialisation. Particularly if you’re fairly new to racing in which case developing skills and tactics is going to be as important to success as fitness.

Crits lend themselves well to this approach, or at least they do in normal times when there’s a full race calendar! For many people there are enough local races to make it feasible to race every week without a lot of travel or costs. Can often race midweek so doesn’t impact your weekend long ride. Races are short enough that they’re not wrecking you for 2 days afterwards like a road race can. And the races themselves are pretty good training. Whereas some road races can be quite poor training if there’s a lot of flat sections where you’re coasting along in the pack not doing much.

And yes, recovery weeks are important. I tend to go with the TR approach of every 4 weeks, but halfway through a block I’ll often need a mini-recovery as well where I take a couple of days off or easy.

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Some advice from a coach/someone who’s raced crits for the better half of a decade now:

I typically don’t enter the specialty phase until the middle/end of May, since the important racing doesn’t really start here in the Midwest till late June - July anyways. Base phases usually end around now/early February (depending on what you’re targeting) and then build is from now throughout the spring.

As has already been stated, I’d recommend rotating back through another build phase or two, and then move on to specialty. Regardless of whether or not racing happens this year, you should absolutely continue through the progression and into specialty.

Here’s why:
You stated you’re newer to competitive cycling, and it sounds like even through you’ve been training with TR since last year, you’re still relatively new to structure as well. Going through the entire progression allows you to learn what specialty feels like, how your body reacts to it, and what kind of efforts are needed for that phase. This can sometimes be hard during a race season, because of fatigue, group rides, or other reasons. If racing does happen this year, great, you’ve got your plan in place and you’re sticking to your training. If it doesn’t? Well, that works too, you still get to stick to your plan and complete an entire cycle of training to gain that experience.

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WOW, thank you very much @florianduerr, @C10oky, @RecoveryRide, @cartsman and @TheCyclissimo! Your answers have helped me a lot!

@TheCyclissimo You made a really good point. It will be important to me to see how the specialty phase feels and learn from it to better prepare for the future.