Criterium season is here: time to challenge yourself a little differently!

4 November 2016

With Sumer on the doorstep of our Southern Hemisphere customers, the criterium season is ramping up with local twilight events becoming a mainstay on our weekly calendars. If you’re not familiar with criterium racing (or “crits” for short), they are a lot of fun and provide a terrific workout for the rider.

Crits involve short track races on tight circuits, generally lasting from 30 to 60 minutes. The technicality of the courses means that riders are not only being challenged physically, but also in the mental, tactical and skill based aspects of cycling. To highlight how the power profile of crits are different to other events or races a rider might typically compete in, look at the power spikes in the screenshot below from a recent criterium event:

Example file from a criterium - 72 spikes into his anaerobic zone in 45min totalling 26% of total ride time.

Example file from a criterium – 72 spikes into his anaerobic zone in 45min totalling 26% of total ride time.

Criterium races are fantastic ways to spice up your training and help you develop skills on a bike that are difficult to train through more traditional riding. We’ve listed some of the great benefits of criterium racing below and why we think you should head out to your local club this week:

  • Physiological benefits: Criteriums are short, hard and fast! They force you into producing large power spikes of unpredictable magnitude, duration and repetition. This unpredictability will challenge all your energy systems with short fast bursts and short recovery periods. Racing a criterium will challenge you across every time metric from your peak sprint power to your endurance. Learning to handle the changes in pace and then quickly recover to accelerate again will make you a stronger all-round cyclist.
  • Skill benefits: Criterium racing is one of the fastest ways to learn how to handle your bike in all kinds of ride scenarios. Cornering and accelerating, jumping out of the saddle, maintaining your composure when there’s a lot of movement around you. Understanding how to react when you bump shoulders with other competitors, riding safely within a pack and using your gears more effectively at both low and high powers. All of these skills can be transferred to any other form of riding and it is hard to find a training environment that can develop these skills as quickly as a Summer of crit racing can.
  • Mental benefits: Criterium racing is FUN!!! Outside of the tangible skills and physiological changes, one thing you’ll notice is how much you’ll enjoy challenging yourself in this environment. The camaraderie shared with other racers you’ve been bumping shoulders with, the satisfaction from learning new skills as well as the sheer exhilaration from racing with your heart in your throat for an hour is hard to match.

So this Summer, make sure you look up your local cycling club, see when they’re holding criterium races and enjoy the challenge. For power users, keep an eye on your ‘Performance Index’ as you do a few races as well and you’ll likely see those numbers start to reflect your improvements in these events. You can also use the PI relative strengths chart to see how you might give yourself the best chance at winning. Do you sit and wait for the final 150 metres or take the opportunistic last lap flyer? Perhaps you’re the rider who needs to attack early with a small group and keep the pace high to nullify their sprints? Regardless, enjoy the racing then look at your analytics to see how you’re adapting and improving as a cyclist.

To our Northern Hemisphere friends, stay tuned for a “Winter riding” article coming soon!