Question: I’m 33 and getting back into racing after 13 years out of the sport. My problem is that I get blasted off the back of criteriums when the speed increases. I’ve been doing steady-state intervals at my lactate threshold, but they don’t seem to work. Should I continue with these workouts ordo more intense intervals? — Patrick S.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: There’s nothing wrong with doing lots of training at lactate threshold (LT). As Coach Chris Carmichael says, such efforts are great for increasing your cruising speed. They’re a cornerstone of any time trial program.
But there’s a problem with training primarily at LT (about 90 percent of max heart rate). When the pace heats up to higher intensities, your body isn’t accustomed to the effort, and you get dropped.
Criteriums demand the opposite of what you receive from traditional LT workouts of 5-10 minutes at a steady state. The reason is all the corners. You have to accelerate out of every one. In a typical 40-km crit on a 1-km, 4-corner course, that’s 160 jumps. Some make you ride at a higher intensity than you reach in an LT workout.
The solution is to incorporate criterium intervals into your training.
Here’s a good workout to prepare you for criterium racing
Find a circuit of about 1-km in a park or industrial center where you can ride safely. Warm up, then ride the circuit at your lactate threshold pace for 15 minutes, jumping hard for 10-15 seconds twice each lap. Work up to 30 minutes. You can also do this on the open road, but you won’t get the cornering practice that improves your crit bike-handling skills.
You’ll find this workout effective for increasing crit speed and giving you the ability to repeat short, high-intensity efforts.