Home > Training Guide

5 tips for your first criterium

Races have begun across Canada, and many criteriums are popping up. Many provinces also have races during the evening, such as les Mardis cyclistes de Lachine in Montreal, the Midweek Criterium in Toronto, or the The World Tuesday Night Championships in Vancouver.

If you are considering a crit, maybe it’s been a while since you’ve done one, here are ideas from Coach Peter Glassford from the Consummate Athlete on how to make the most of your experience.

1. Get comfortable in a group

The pack skills you learn in a fast group ride are a big part of criterium racing, Glassford says. If you are new to cycling this can be riding with a friend and working on rotating and riding beside, behind, and in front. As your ability increases go to larger and faster group rides.

2. Sprint training

Glassford recommends starting with uphill sprints (for example, 10 x 8-12 seconds). The time is less important than the activation and form. Pick a sign or marker and sprint through that “finish line.” As you become more comfortable with standing and accelerating, bring your sprints onto flat and even (slightly) downhill gradients to develop speed and coordination. Once you are very comfortable add other people to your sprint workouts or join a spirited group ride that has sprints in it.

3. Sprint repeats

You can also try micro-intervals or repeated sprints (for example, 2-3 x 10 minutes done as 30 second hard followed by 30seconds easy. )Glassford says that using some form of repeated effort is likely smart if not currently crit racing or regularly group riding. “I have always liked 30/30 (30 seconds hard and  30 seconds easy) but many coaches like 20/10 or other variations,” he says.. You can also design a criterium course that naturally requires you to accelerate / corner (coast) and ride it fast for a set period of time (for example 2-3 x 10 minutes on the course) which ties cornering practice and aerodynamics into the specific event terrain and intensity.

4. Cornering

Specific work on cornering may be needed if you are getting dropped or allowing gaps to open. This is hard to practice on your own but setting up higher speed corners or a criterium course as previously mentioned. Specific skills coaching on cornering may also be warranted.

5. Spin up workouts

Criteriums tend to involve high cadences as you accelerate and adjust your positioning in the pack. Using cadence to accelerate is something that many people struggle with, Glassford says, so try doing 6-10 x 30 seconds spin ups done as 10 seconds fast, 10 seconds faster, 10 seconds fastest. Spin ups are great drills to learn how cadence interacts with speed and power/effort. In the final 10 seconds you should be at high effort and very high cadence. These could be a warmup for the criterium race/micro-intervals or for the group ride day.