It would totally be a disservice to talk about criterium workouts without mentioning sprinting! Most criterium races require a high degree of skill and neuromuscular coordination and right in the middle of that Venn Diagram is sprinting. Some of you may be thinking, “well, I’m not a sprinter, so why would I need to train my sprint??” Regardless of if you consider yourself a sprinter or not, sprinting is still a very important aspect of criterium racing, as well as road racing. Every time you accelerate to cover a breakaway and every time you get up to speed out of a corner, guess what... you are sprinting. Improving your sprint isn’t only for that last lap mad dash but also for being more efficient with all the accelerations throughout the entire race and who knows, maybe one day you’ll stick that breakaway and sprint home for the win all because you added a sprint workout into your rotation.
Now, there are a lot of ways to execute a sprint workout, but some of the most important factors to consider are intensity, duration and length of the rest interval. For maximum sprint power and neuromuscular coordination, sprint efforts should be in the 3-10 second range and intensity needs to be 10/10, all out, aiming to put as much power into the pedals as possible, don’t even think about % of FTP. Sprints that exceed 15 seconds start to drift into Functional Reserve Capacity (FRC) or anaerobic capacity training. The rest intervals should be at minimum around 5 minutes long to maintain quality throughout the sprints. If the power drops off more than 10% in two consecutive sprints, it’s probably a good indication that quality has decreased, and it’s time to call it a day. Remember that intensity is the main driver in adaptation for sprint workouts, so make sure to come into a sprint workout fresh and ready to push to maximum.
My favorite sprint workout to give out is very general and works on both neuromuscular coordination and anaerobic capacity, as well as sprint technique. I call it :
Sprint Form Drills
1x50 meters in 39x19 (or approximate)
1x50 meters in 39x17
1x100 meters in 53x19 rolling start, shift as appropriate
1x150 meters (about 10 Seconds) in 53x19 rolling start, shift as appropriate
2x250 meters (about 20") in 53x16 rolling start (from ~15mph), shift as appropriate
2x300 meters (about 25") in 53x15 rolling start (from ~20mph), shift as appropriate
1x50 meters in smallest gear, in the saddle
Complete recovery between each sprint (zone 1/soft pedaling), about 5 minutes or more if needed
Fill out extra time with endurance riding
How it should look
Above is a visual representation of the sprint form drills, with the power spikes representing all 9 sprints, preceded by a short warmup and followed by some easy endurance paced riding. This workout has it all with variable sprint distances and variable cadences. When executing this workout, focus on body position as well. Put your hands in the drops and really engage your lats and core when jumping out of the saddle. I tend to give this workout to riders in the general conditioning or base phase, as it’s not hyper specific and targets improvements in a broader range, but if you are new to sprint workouts or just never do them, this workout can be incorporated at just about any time of the year. Alright, now you have the workout, time to put it to use and start winning some town line sprints!