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The benefits of crit racing at home on Zwift

Updated: Mar 28, 2020



You have been training hard indoors for months full of intense interval sessions and long aerobic workouts. Now spring races and events are canceled or postponed.

Here is a fun racing option to consider to mix in with your indoor interval sessions. Zwift launched a new crit city course this winter. There is a short course of 10 miles and a longer 22+ mile course to choose from. The course is a 1-mile loop that includes a short hill that makes this race a bit ouchy! It is amazing how REAL it feels from the heart pumping start to an all-out sprint finish.


If you have not raced on Zwift I suggest doing the shorter race first to get the feel of the course and pacing. You will thank me after. The races start out full gas as you work to stay with the pack. After that, you'll be racing side by side with riders from around the globe pushing each other lap after lap.

This race is a high-intensity Vo2 interval training session. In fact, when you look at the race profile graph it looks just like any common interval workout you have done. You can see I did 18 laps with one hill per lap. You notice the pink power line never dips below 190 watts and my heart rate is high and steady throughout. One could argue it look like a time trial effort but it feels more punchy. Each time up the hill my power would spike for 30 seconds and then back to threshold. Racing keeps my mind off the interval while focusing on my competition and racing strategies. I never win but I am always pushed to the limit and get a quality workout. Just something to consider while training indoors!


Training effect: The graph above shows how much time I spent in my power training zones. Easy zone 1 is to the left and highest power zone at far right. I spent 25 minutes at or above my threshold (Zone 4) for the race. 13 minutes were in my highest zones 5, 6 and 7 which made this feel more like a crit vs TT.


Q; How does the indoor Crit Compare to real outdoor crits?

I took my power data from 2019 state crit and compared it to my last indoor crit.

Here is what I found.


OUTDOOR CRIT DATA JULY 2019

My outdoor Crit Normalized Power was 57 watts less than my indoor crit. (281 watts vs 338 watts) The reason for this as that outdoors you are drafting and not pedaling more often which lowers the average power.


Outdoors, produced higher max power. My max outdoor watts was 1055 vs 779 watts indoors. That's a huge 276-watt difference outdoors! (I gotta work on my sprint) The reason for this big difference is the explosive attacks in real crits. Indoor crits maintain a high sustain power through the entire race and less max power. Too tired to sprint.


INDOOR CRIT DATA MARCH 2020


Average heart rate for both races was similar 145 vs 148 BPM. However, the outdoor crit reached a higher maximum heart rate of 163 vs 160 indoors.


The intensity level was higher for the indoor crit at 99% of threshold vs 82% outdoors. No surprise.


Summary: Both crits provided solid training effects. The indoor crit created more stress and higher overall average power. However, the outdoor crit was more explosive with higher power output and heart rate due to attacks and aggressive racing tactics.



This crit race (workout) will build your sustain power, aerobic capacity, and Vo2 fitness and give you a chance to be competitive. Crit racing in the virtual world gives you the best bang for your training time no doubt. 10-minute warm-up, 25-45 minute race and 10 minutes warm down and DONE! No crashes, lots of sweat and an awesome workout. Perfect. No more than 2 races a week is best.


Keep it rolling and stay safe!


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