EPC Tips - Criss-Cross Bike Intervals

Jul. 2, 2015

Leading into your goal race you want to replicate your race day efforts in your training to best prepare you for success.

Regardless of the race format or distance, you need to have the ability (and confidence) to go hard, often beyond that of your goal race pace, in order to get into the lead group at the start of the race. After this hard effort you need to be able to settle into your sustainable race pace while still being able to respond to attacks by your competitors, surges up a hill, and surges to pass competitors. The ability to surge, settle in, surge, settle in, throughout a race is crucial to being able to finish strong and make or break your race day performance.

The following bike session is a classic example of race specific training that will help you learn to become more "comfortable" and be able to make these harder efforts within in a race without blowing up. These types of intervals are often referred to as "criss-cross intervals" as they go back and forth between two training zones. The exact zones you're training in these sessions depends on the distance of the race you are training for. For races of duration under 5 hours you'll want to do this session with "race pace" being at or near your lactate threshold (zone 4) and the "super-race pace" at or near your vo2 max (zone 5). For races extending beyond the 5 hour mark you can lower the intensity just a bit by have race pace be more in line with your aerobic threshold (zone 3) and the "super-race pace" being at your lactate threshold (zone 4).

The goal within these intervals is to start above your race pace, holding it there for a short bit before backing off slightly and bringing the intensity down to your race pace for an extended period of time. Then near the end of the interval you kick it back up a notch and finish strong, above your race pace for a short period. Then you take a recovery interval before repeating the complete  interval again.

Performed correctly this session will improve your threshold power on the bike and leave you better prepared to respond to the dynamic efforts required on race day.


30+ minutes easy/moderate paced riding


2-4x[12:00 (as 2:00 super-race pace, 8:00 race pace, 2:00 super-race pace), 5:00-10:00 easy]

Perform the intervals on terrain similar to that of your goal race (long hills, rollers, flats, etc.) finish with additional aerobic riding to meet volume goals.

Written by Cody Waite, professional endurance athlete, endurance sport coach and founder of Endurance Performance Coaching. XTERRA Athletes, if you're going to XTERRA USA and/or XTERRA Worlds this year join our XTERRA Championship Training Program that contains all the key training sessions that will have you in peak condition leading up to these two great events.  

EPC Tips