As cyclists and triathletes get closer to key races, one of the workouts I use to improve lactate threshold speed and power is a criss-cross workout. I like this workout because it requires extreme focus and control of intensity. Additionally, it helps athletes experience easing up on intensity and then ratcheting it up again.
I've mentioned criss-cross in other columns, but I haven't discussed how to use the specifics of this workout on race day. There are multiple ways to apply the skills from this workout in a race, but my favorite use is allowing competitors to work hard to get close to your wheel. And I do mean allow—you control the intensity. Just as they get close, you ratchet up the intensity and ride away. The ability to do this multiple times on race day will eventually crush the will of your competitors.
On a mostly flat or rolling course, begin with a warm-up some 20 to 30 minutes at Zone 1 to 2 intensity. Near the end of the warm-up, slowly increase heart rate to low Zone 4. Once Zone 4 zone is attained, begin timing.
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Gradually build speed until the top of Zone 5a is achieved. Then, gradually reduce speed until the very bottom of Zone 4 is achieved. The build and reduction time segments should take two to three minutes each. So, take three minutes to move up through the heart rate range and three minutes to come back down.
Resist the temptation to take three minutes to move up through the range and 30 seconds to rest and plummet to the bottom of the zone range. Subtle control is the goal. Continue to criss-cross from low Zone 4 to high Zone 5a for some 15 to 30 minutes depending on your training plan.
Use this workout sparingly in the four to eight weeks before key races. I don't recommend athletes do this workout multiple times per week. If you decide to do it once per week, aim to keep it in a weekly schedule for no more than three weeks in a row.
On a Hill
You can do the criss-cross workout on a hill and use the strategy on race day on a hill climb. If your key races have long climbs, this is a great skill to possess.
As you get closer to race season, include specific workouts in your training plan that not only improve your physical fitness, but your mental fitness as well.Search for a cycling event.