in Friends, Family, and Fun

4 Hour Bike Racer

I’m trying to win a category 4 criterium. Specifically, I’m shooting for my local Seward Park or Volunteer Park crits. I have raced before, mostly 15 years ago (made it to cat-3, but never won a cat-4 race). I’ve been inspired by the pragmatic approach of The 4 Hour Body, but it is missing a chapter on cycling. So this blog post will be my attempt to write that chapter. Also, I’m working on a mobile application for behavior change – inspired in part by the work of BJ Fogg. I’ve had positive results using behavior hacks the last few months, so I thought I’d take on this ambitious goal.

If you’re training for a cycling criterium, please leave a comment (question, answer, or cheer me on).

On-bike workout schedule

I have 3-6 months to pull this off. The question is: what is the most time-effective way to get in shape? I’d like to avoid 4 hour long rides via the scenic Renton airport or on the body-rocking (tree root infested) Burke Gilman trail if possible. I think the alternative is interval training.

I’m hoping that – like the sprinters in 4HB – I can train at less than full interval lengths and get the full benefits. If I concentrate on sprints and strength, I’m hoping that early season races will help with overall aerobic fitness.

Another idea is to take a track racing course that I’ve heard is offered locally. I’ve never done it, and could gain some fixie cred (not that I want it). Oh, and I live smack on top of one of Seattle’s 7 hills – and don’t have a car. So I’ve got that going for me.

My Quora question: What is the best 12 week training plan to prepare for a cycling criterium?

Strength (weight) training

I’m guessing that I can start with the 4HB chapter on “Becoming super human.” I’ve already got the tights for it. My interpretation is that the main requirement is lots of dead-lifting. The glute exercises are easy, but I may need to join a gym to find enough weight to dead-lift (and large enough kettle bells).

Another fallback is the P90X “Legs & Back” workout video. You can find it on bittorrent sites, if you can make it past the Russian bride ads. When doing the workout, I substitute push ups and sit ups for the back part. I’ve found it to be challenging, effective, and comprehensive (meaning I walk funny the next day if I haven’t done it in a while). It can be done in an hour from home.

Training with power (and other forms of measurement)

Serious bike racers attach power meters to their rides to measure their power output. Non-serious bike riders use power motors to get up hills. You can also measure your heart rate to determine how hard your body is working. Measuring both enables you to determine how efficient your body is becoming as you train it.

The only problem is, I haven’t yet found a power meter for less than $500.

So far these seem to be the most affordable (not sure about quality):

I’ll find a few others and set up some craigslist alerts. If you know of any for less than $500, please comment below.

A quick Google search turned up this book: Training and Racing with a Power Meter, which looks like a good training guide. Again, I’d love to find some way to optimize the process to the minimum effective dose. I’m also wondering if simply timing myself up a hill will suffice (the hill eliminates the wind factor).

Lastly, inspired by 4HB, I will estimate body fat and take my measurements. This should help with motivation. Haven’t decided yet if I’m going to post it here.

Skills & Tactics

My earlier racing experience (insert photo of wrecked bike and bloody leg) has given me a little knowledge of how to not get taken out by an idiot, not get dropped, and occaisionally get to the front. I’ve ridden the two courses a number of times. I’ve also been riding a little bit on rollers, which I can tell has improved my bike handling. I have a feeling there are going to be a lot more rollers in my future due to the extremely sunny Seattle spring time (I only like to ride in the rain).

I would like to read up on sprinting form though. I’m sure improving my form (I’ve never really worked on it) would go a long way.

If all else fails, I’ll recruit some friends with dogs and bull-horns to throw a little mayhem into the last lap of a race to give me an advantage.


2006 Pinarello Dogma. My mistress. I may upgrade my Ultegra pedals to Speedplay pedals if I have the hankering to upgrade something. The cleats on my cheap Pearl Izumi shoes keep coming lose.

I do need a bike-fitting and tune up. I’ve never done a bike fitting. A friend recommended Rusty at TN Multisports. Maybe they can evaluate my riding form too.

Diet & Supplements

I’m starting with the slow-carb diet as a default. Need to tweak it for strength building and recovery.

Recovery drinks [link forthcoming] – I swear by these since using them to complete P90X. A big glass after a work out prevents me from being sore the next day, and I’ve noticed makes me come back stronger faster. Really wish these were around (or I wasn’t so cheap) when I raced before.

Protein Powder [link forthcoming]. Both seem to help with building muscle and more importantly give me something sweet to drink when I’m craving a milkshake. I often add bananas, almond milk, and Hagen Daz vanilla frozen yogurt.

Magnesium & Caffeinated Gu for the short races. I haven’t propperly measured the effect of either. I will report on their effectiveness as the season progresses.

Write a Comment


  1. Hi!

    I have found myself in the same situation. I was a track and field sprinter through college so came into the cycling world with a good base of strength. I responded very well to Chris Carmichael’s “Time Crunched Cyclist program” (it is 4-6 hrs/wk). I have a few cat 5 races left before I can cat up, but have always finished in the lead pack.

    I read 4HB as well and am trying to create a similar type of program for Crits and pursuits on the track. I am doing 5×2 deadlifts twice a week, some specific rehab and core stability stuff twice a week, and will be on the bike 4 times a week.

    I look forward to hearing how you do!


  2. thanks for becoming a cycling guinea pig for this. i’m a former cat 4 / maters race – now just competitive club. I like the premise of 4HB, but am curious how others body’s react to the loss of white carbs with the load of 100+ miles / week.

  3. Was just bouncing this same thing around with Steve who runs I’m looking at doing similar and was wondering how this progressed.

    I’m thinking a combination of Tim Ferriss’s long distance run chapter as well as sweet spot cycle training. Just wondering what the muscle groups are for cycling (deadlifts still useful or some other movement?)

    Anyway hope it went well.