The past summer months have been full of the type of cycling races I like to ride the most: criteriums! In spring, there are already some criteriums to ride every weekend and sometimes during the week, but in the summer months from June to August, there is a criterium somewhere in the Netherlands almost every day.
After riding some good criteriums in the summer of 2022, I decided to focus more on criteriums in preparation for the 2023 season. Because of the relatively short race duration and the often technical / twisty courses, the intensity in a criterium is consistently high. The many attacks from the corners, trying to attack myself, reacting to competitors' attacks: it all requires short but fierce efforts. In preparation for this season, I have tried to prepare for this as well as possible by focusing more on high-intensity and short-duration intervals in training. I also rode a few races on the MTB during the winter in order to work on a better cornering technique and a more explosive attack from the corners. Finally, I tuned my equipment a bit more specifically with, for example, shorter crank arms and a new wheel set with wider rims. The short crank arms allow me to keep pedalling longer in corners, while the wide rims allow for wider tyres and thus a bit more comfort and grip in the corners.
At 80 kilometres, a criterium is much shorter than, say, a classic (often at least as long in terms of distance), but I have found that endurance should certainly not be underestimated even for a criterium. A good endurance ensures that you can keep up the many short and fierce efforts until the ultimate finale of a criterium. In addition, the race duration of a criterium is just under 2 hours long. In combination with the high intensity, this makes it important during a criterium to take in enough carbohydrates and thus energy. It is not necessary to take in 90 grams or more of carbohydrates per hour, for example, but it is still advisable to aim for 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour. To make sure I have as much energy as possible up to and including the end of a criterium, I always opt for an intake that is somewhat on the high side. In most criteriums, this comes down to two water bottles of Amacx Energy Drink and two Drink Gels, good for a total of 120 grams of carbohydrates or 60 grams per hour at race duration of 2 hours. During criteriums, I prefer to choose carbohydrates from water bottles and drink gels, because on the twisty and technical courses these are often a bit easier and faster to absorb than, for example, an Energy Fruit Chew or Fast Bar.
At the first criteriums in the spring, I noticed towards the end of the race that I sometimes fell a little short to compete for the win. During my preparation in the winter I seemed to have focused a bit too much on high-intensity training, which unfortunately made my endurance deteriorate a bit. During a number of criteriums, I also used my strength a bit too much at the beginning, which of course does not ensure that you end up in the finals completely fresh... In the spring, I focused more on improving my endurance in my training sessions, I tried to maintain the intensity in my training sessions and especially not increase it further. Tactically, I also started to evaluate what learning and improvement points I could take from the first criteriums.
After a couple of top-10 places in the first criteriums of this season, the various adjustments in training and tactics fortunately led to a lot of nice results from the end of May onwards! On Sunday 29 May, in the cycling village of Hoogerheide, I managed to take my first victory of this year and a week later in Papendrecht, the second victory already followed! Especially the victory in Papendrecht was a very nice one for me personally: close to home, lots of family and friends along the side and crossing the finish line solo after an attack of 15 kilometres! In the following months I also managed to win in Elden, Prinsenbeek, Heerle, Wateringen and Sint Pancras, as well as five second and three third places. So so far, seven wins and a total of 15 podium finishes, a score I never dreamed of in preparation for this season!
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