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Ask RIDE…What does it take to become a good criterium racer?

I want to race ! What do I do next?

What kind of training is necessary to become a good criterium racer?

Thanks Tom

Hey Tom,

Your question has been answered over a series of posts and not in any particular order. We have tried to follow what we think is the best preparation for each event. Click the following links for more information on each discipline.

Part 1: What you will need

Part 2: The local Criterium (see below)

Part 3: Kermesse/Club Road Race

Part 4: Specialist Races – Hill Climb & TT

Stay tuned for posts on the other parts of the answer to come!

windsorPHOTO: Stuart Baker

Training is much more scientific than what was in the past. Research into training methods has advanced and relies heavily on the use of technology to track, monitor and assess the data obtained from each session.

Criteriums are great in the sense that you can really go back to the basics, without the use for overly technical methods. I believe crits are one of the easier races to train for because they take the least amount of time. Those new to cycling or have limited opportunities to train will can often be better suited to criteriums.

Training is about mixing up the quantity with more quality. Criteriums do not require long and steady four hour rides so replace them with rides of half this length. The key is quality! Criteriums are rarely longer than an hour and most club races and graded crits are usually much less. To win a crit you need to be in my words ‘zappy’. This means dealing with constant changes in pace, going from 50km/h to 15km/h then back and anywhere in between. It is essential to recover quickly from each acceleration if you are going to be competitive towards the end of a race. Do not neglect bike skills because these can be the difference between riding in C-grade at a club race or lining up at the start of the national championships.

Here are some of my suggestions:

Recovery: Every opportunity needs to be taken in between accelerations to recovery. You should take three deep breaths just before coming into a corner so you can power out of it. Focussed breathing can really give you the edge over the competition. Interval training will improve your recovery time so use your training rides as mini races. They can also be completed on the indoor trainer. Some people perform “Russian steps” which begins with a 10 second sprint with 50 seconds recovery, then 20 seconds sprint and 40 seconds recovery, all the way to 50 second sprint and only 10 seconds recovery. It’s not over yet! Continue to work backwards from a 50 second sprint and 10 seconds recovery through 40 second sprint with 20 seconds recovery etc. Do this a couple of times and you will certainly sleep well that night.

Zappy: The best way to make sure you can handle changes of speed and high intensity efforts is to do it during training. Go for your life in any training situation. Get your training mates to roll-through turns, sprint to the top of each hill or pick a certain type of street sign as use that as a start gun for a sprint. Keep count of each win over the ride. But be careful – some signs are more abundant than you think. Get up to speed as quickly as possible from a standstill at red traffic lights.

This is why crit training is easy because you do not need distance rides, just intense rides.

Skills: This is overlooked in training and is probably the most critical part of a criterium – especially if it’s a tight and tricky circuit. To corner fast you need confidence, to build confidence don’t concentrate on how fast can I go until I fall off but concentrate on looking forward, getting balanced over both wheels, pedals in the correct position and brake before the corner. Do this while training and you will be hooking through the corners like Paolo Savoldelli.

Remember the races are short and fast, so don’t train long and slow. Reduce the quantity and up the quality. Training is easy to get right and you can be very competitive with fewer hours of training.


Dean Windsor rides for the British-based Rapha-Condor-Sharp cycling team. Follow Dean at

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