Training: Early Season Criterium Race Prep Workouts, By Gary Tingley

Tour de Murrieta Grand Prix

Training Tips for Criterium Racing

Early season bicycle racing is upon us! Get tuned up with these criterium-specific workouts.

Note: for pacing using PE or a HRM see Power Training Levels by Training Peaks.

#1 – High cadence/High-intensity surges (1.5-2 hour ride)

  • Start with a 20-40 minute gradual warm-up.
  • With a teammate, practice taking:15 second HARD (130-150% FTP pulls and then dropping back into the draft for :15 seconds. Do this for 10:00+. It will be difficult, but keep it rolling. Then easy for 5:00.
  • Finish out the ~2-hour ride at an endurance pace.

#2 – Threshold Intervals (1.5-2 hour ride)

  • Begin with a solid 20+ minute warm-up, stretch out the legs.
  • For main set #1, ride 4 x 12:00 @ 98-103% of your FTP with a 3:00 rest interval between each threshold interval.
  • Cool down for 10 minutes.

#3 – Climb the Pyramid (2-hour ride)

  • Warm-up for 20:00 or more.
  • Then do a reverse pyramid of intervals @ 93-95% FTP, starting with 20:00 and working your way down, by cutting the time in half: This is 20:00; 10:00, 5:00, 2:30; 1:15; 45 Incorporate 3:00 of recovery time in between each effort.
  • Recover for 5:00+ after the last interval, to make ~2 hours total ride time.

#4 – Bursts & Sprints (2-hour ride)

  • Warm-up for at least 30:00
  • Then complete a set of 5 microbursts of 30sec/:30sec 150% FTP “ON” and 50% FTP “EASY”. Then easy for 10:00.
  • Then complete 3 “full gas” sprints from a slow roll/stop, full effort:10 to : 12-second sprints with 4:00 of full recovery between each one. For the sprints, jump hard out of the saddle, explosive effort to get on top of the gear, then when you have reached maximum cadence, sit down and maintain maximum intensity for the entire length of the effort of 10 seconds or 20 pedal strokes.
  • Then after this set, ride at an endurance pace to make 2 hours total ride time today.

#5 – Race Day Pre-Race Criterium Warm-Up (40 minutes)

  • The warm-up is 40 minutes total, normally completed on a trainer or on rollers.
  • 20 minutes easy spin, slowly raising cadence to 100 rpm, and include a few 5-second high-cadence bursts, then 1 x 3 minutes @ 90%/95%/100% of FTP w/2:00 easy spin between intervals 1-2, 2-3, then after interval 3 4 minutes easy spin
  • Rollover to the start line area with 10 minutes to go.

By Gary Tingley, USAC Level 1 Cycling Coach,

Photo © Christy Nicholson /

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