By Karen Brems, Master World Cyclocross Champion 

In general, the shorter and the more intense the event, the longer the warm-up.        For a long road stage in a stage race, I usually just pedal around fairly        easily for 20-25 minutes and count on using the first 15-20 km of the race        as warm-up. For a pursuit on the track,  I warm up for at least 1 1/2 hours        and include some maximal efforts.  One day road races, time trials and criteriums        fall somewhere in between.

The purpose of a warm up is not just to heat up your muscles, but  to activate        the physiological systems you will use in the upcoming  event. The most critical        warm-ups are those for times events where  you have to be ready to go at        maximal effort right from the start.  If I am doing a time trial or prologue        in the afternoon or evening,  I actually start my warm-up in the morning        with an easy 30-45 min.  spin. If I have been tapering, traveling or recovering        from the previous  race and have not gone hard for more than 2-3 days, I        actually start  my “warm-up” the day before the race by doing        some short efforts at  race intensity. Racers call this “opening up”      before a race.

The concepts I am addressing in this column are really most applicable  to        time trials, including track events, prologues and hill climbs.  People are        pretty individualistic as far as what they like to do for  a warm up. It        is a good idea to develop your own routine. This has  2 benefits: first,        you can figure out what makes you perform the best  and second, it can eliminate        pre-race nervousness and increase your  confidence level to do the same thing        you’ve done many times before.  You should not test out a new warm-up        in an important race. This is  one reason it is a good idea to do “practice”      time trials like the low key hill climbs.  Many racers prefer to warm        up on a stationary  trainer. There are a lot of benefits to this: it is a        controlled environment,  you don’t get a flat on your race wheels and        if the weather is cold  or rainy you can stay warm and dry. The biggest disadvantage        is that  if you are flying to races, lugging a trainer is a real pain! I        know  people who fit them in large Samsonite suitcases or garment bags. I      actually sort of prefer to warm up on the road if there is a good area available      or especially if I can warm up on the course. This way I can figure out        gear selections and make sure everything on my bike is working OK. In a        track event, I like to do a few laps at race pace to make sure I know how        it feels. Also, somehow everything hurts more on a trainer, so I sometimes        feel better about my upcoming performance when I warm up on the road. A        trainer is a good substitute though if you can’t warm up on the course.

The following is a sample TT warm up protocol based on heart rate  zones.        For reference:

Zone 1 =  HR < 65% max. HR
        Zone 2 = HR  65-72% max. HR
        Zone 3 = HR 73-80% max. HR
        Zone 4 = HR 84-90% max. HR
        Zone 5 = HR 91-100% max. HR 

Warm up:

20-25 min. easy on road

Trainer or road:
        5 min. Zone 3
        2 min. Zone 1-2
        5 min. Zone 3
        4 min. Zone 4
        3 min. Zone 2
        2 min. Zone 5
        3-5 min. Zone 1

Since the majority of the time in a time trial is spent above your  anaerobic        threshold, you want to activate this system in the warm up but ideally you        don’t want to load up your legs too much. The best  way to do this is        with very high rpms. This way you can elevate your  heart rate and while        your legs will still burn, they will not fatigue  as much as when you push        race gears. This is  a warm up you could  use for a longer TT. For a        pursuit or prologue, I usually split the  Zone 5 segment into 2 x 1 min.        all out efforts.

Be sure to leave enough time between your warm up and your start time to        get back to the start if you are on the road! You also want time for last        minute clothing and/or equipment changes such as putting  on your race wheels,        putting on a dry skinsuit (especially  if  you warmed up on a trainer),        putting on your aero helmet, shoe covers  etc. Ideally you can have rollers        or a trainer set up close to the  start so you can stay warm while waiting        to go. This is especially  necessary on the track where you don’t have        an exact start time.