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What type of Cyclist are you? Understanding Cycling Phenotypes and what that could mean for your training?

Updated: 2 days ago





Cycling Phenotype Time Trialer, Sprinter, All Rounder, Climber

Cycling is a diverse sport with a variety of specializations that cater to different physical and physiological traits. These specializations, or phenotypes, help determine the roles and strengths of cyclists within different disciplines of the sport. In this blog, we’ll explore the concept of cycling phenotypes,and provide a comprehensive understanding of the distinct categories of cyclists.





What Are Cycling Phenotypes?


Cycling phenotypes refer to the classification of cyclists based on their physical characteristics, strengths, and performance in specific types of races or segments within a race. The main phenotypes include:


  1. Climbers

  2. Sprinters

  3. Time Trialists

  4. All-rounders


Each phenotype excels in different scenarios, and their physiological profiles can be quite distinct.


Identifying Your Cycling Phenotype


Before diving into specific training strategies, it's essential to identify your cycling phenotype. This can be determined through a combination of physiological testing, race performance analysis, and self-assessment. Key metrics include:


  • Power-to-Weight Ratio (W/kg)

  • Peak Power Output (watts)

  • Functional Threshold Power (FTP)

  • VO2 Max (ml/kg/min)

  • Anaerobic Capacity


Once you have a clear understanding of your phenotype, you can tailor your training to maximize your strengths and address your weaknesses.


The Climber


Climbers are characterized by their ability to perform exceptionally well on steep and long ascents. These cyclists typically have a high power-to-weight ratio (W/kg), allowing them to efficiently overcome the gravitational challenges of uphill riding.


Statistics:


  • VO2 Max: Climbers often have a VO2 max (a measure of aerobic capacity) of over 75 ml/kg/min.

  • Power-to-Weight Ratio: Climbers can sustain power outputs of 5-6 W/kg during extended climbs.

  • Body Composition: Climbers generally have a lower body mass index (BMI), often between 18-20.


Example Cycle Climbing Training Components:


  1. Threshold Training: Perform intervals at or slightly above your lactate threshold to improve sustained power output.

  • Example: 4x10 minutes at FTP with 5 minutes rest between intervals.

  1. VO2 Max Intervals: Boost aerobic capacity with high-intensity intervals. My Blog How to Maximise Vo2 Max Training

  • Example: 5x3 minutes at 110-120% of FTP with 3 minutes rest.

  1. Long, Steady Climbs: Simulate race conditions with long, steady climbs at a moderate intensity.

  • Example: 1-2 hour rides at 70-80% of FTP on hilly terrain.


The Sprinter


Sprinters are known for their explosive power and speed over short distances, usually excelling in the final meters of a race. They have a high anaerobic capacity and can produce significant power for brief periods.


Statistics:


  • Peak Power Output: Sprinters can generate peak power outputs of 1400-1600 watts in sprints.

  • Anaerobic Capacity: High levels of muscle phosphocreatine allow them to maintain high power for up to 20-30 seconds.

  • Muscle Mass: Higher muscle mass in the lower body contributes to their explosive power.


Key Training Components:


  1. Sprint Intervals: Short, maximum effort sprints to develop explosive power.

  • Example: 8x20 seconds all-out sprints with 2-3 minutes rest.

  1. Anaerobic Capacity Work: Longer, high-intensity efforts to build the ability to sustain near-maximal efforts.

  • Example: 6x1 minute at 150% of FTP with 4 minutes rest.

  1. Strength Training: Incorporate gym workouts to build lower body strength.

  • Example: Squats, leg presses, and plyometrics 2-3 times per week.


The Time Trialist


Time Trialists specialize in riding alone against the clock over flat or rolling terrain. Their strengths lie in sustained power output and aerodynamic efficiency.


Statistics:


  • Functional Threshold Power (FTP): Time trialists typically have an FTP of 4.5-5.5 W/kg.

  • Aerodynamic Efficiency: Low drag coefficient (CdA), often achieved through optimized bike position and equipment.

  • Consistency: Ability to maintain steady power output for prolonged periods, usually between 30-60 minutes.


Key Training Components:


  1. Threshold and Sweet Spot Training: Long intervals at or just below threshold to build endurance and power.

  • Example: 3x20 minutes at 90-95% of FTP with 10 minutes rest.

  1. Aerodynamic Drills: Practice maintaining an aerodynamic position for extended periods.

  • Example: Long rides in the aero position, focusing on comfort and efficiency.

  1. Pacing Practice: Develop a consistent pacing strategy for time trials.

  • Example: Simulate time trials of varying distances to practice even pacing.


The All-rounder


All-rounders are versatile cyclists who perform well across various terrains and race scenarios. They balance a mixture of climbing ability, sprinting power, and time-trialing efficiency.


Statistics:


  • Balanced Power Profile: Moderate power-to-weight ratio (4-5 W/kg) and high peak power output (1200-1400 watts).

  • Adaptability: Their VO2 max is typically around 70-75 ml/kg/min, allowing them to perform well in diverse conditions.

  • Race Results: All-rounders often achieve consistent placements across different race stages, from flat sprints to mountain stages.


Monitoring Progress and Adjusting Training


Regularly monitor your progress using power meters, heart rate monitors, and other tools. Track key metrics such as FTP, power-to-weight ratio, and peak power output. Adjust your training plan based on your performance and feedback from races or training sessions.


Conclusion


Cycling phenotypes provide a framework for understanding the diverse capabilities within the sport. Through the lens of statistics, we can gain deeper insights into what makes each type of cyclist unique and how they contribute to the dynamics of competitive racing. Whether you're a coach, a competitive cyclist, or a fan, appreciating these distinctions enriches the experience and strategy of cycling.


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