Criterium Workout of the Week: Zone 2

crit racing Aevolo

Many criterium aficionados are concerned with one thing and that’s riding hard.  Push harder, harder, harder.  In this Criterium Workout of the Week we say that sometimes you have to go slow to go fast.  Dr. Inigo San Millan wrote a stellar article about it for Training Peaks that basically covers the basics while showing you the rabbit hole should you decide to do a deep dive. 


But what does a Zone 2 ride look like?  Contrary to popular belief, it’s absolutely not that awesome group ride that happens every weekend.  You know, that group ride that leaves you with brain fog the remainder of the day and wondering how everyone has all sorts of energy.  Zone 2 rides contain very little high power work which means they get their training stimulus from duration.  Also, many athletes make the mistake of combining long rides with hard rides. Long rides don’t necessarily need to be hard to be epic.  


So let’s take a quick look at a Zone 2 ride….. 

Here’s what a professional 4:16 (256minutes) ride in zone 2 looks like below.  Some notable stats:  2996kJ with less than 6 minutes spent at or above threshold while this client only coasted for 6 minutes total.  That’s much more difficult feat than it seems! 

Zone 2 really


 In the next image you’ll see a heat map of this ride vs a typical “zone 2” group ride. 

This ride...

Heat map this ride


Typical group ride...

group Ride


Both of these rides are technically zone 2 rides but only one of them will best optimize aerobic benefits like fat oxidation and lactate clearance.  Got your attention, eh?  The other is a really fun and moderately tough group ride.  The former is ultimately why going slow(er) helps you go much faster on race day, when race minded riders want to go fast. 


Executing a Zone 2 ride is an exercise in discipline and eating as much as anything. Remember that the training stimulus comes from duration NOT intensity. It’s best to get a few like minded training partners together and make a go of it. Keep the Intensity Factor in the mid- low 0.60s and minimize high power work.  Don’t worry, you’ll reap the benefits of these rides soon enough.