Defining Your Phenotype for Power Profile Charts

Training and Racing with a Power Meter, 3rd Ed. is the definitive, comprehensive guide to using a power meter. Armed with the revolutionary techniques from this guide, cyclists and triathletes can achieve lasting improvements and their best performances ever.

Defining Your Phenotype

To use the Power Profile charts that follow, first find the profile best suited to your riding. Then, simply locate the peak or maximum average power that you can generate for 5 seconds, 1 minute, and 5 minutes and at functional threshold power, and find corresponding values in the rows of the table. If your performance falls between two values, which will often be the case, assign the nearest ranking. It is critical that the values used in this analysis be truly reflective of your very best effort over that duration; otherwise, the resultant profile may be distorted, leading to inappropriate conclusions and decisions about training.

What emerges as you highlight your results will be a unique pattern that shows your relative strengths and weaknesses in cycling, which then help to define your specific phenotype. You may find that you are at a higher level in sprinting, for example, than in efforts requiring endurance. Or perhaps you have an incredible ability to maintain a high level of power for a long time, but you have little to no anaerobic ability—a Power Profile that categorizes you as a time trialer. The phenotype that best characterizes your riding may change slightly over time as you train and work on your weak areas. Although every Power Profile is unique, there are some typical patterns. These patterns are explained below. However, in considering these examples, keep in mind that performance at each duration is being evaluated in light of the world’s best cycling performances. Thus, road cyclists will tend to appear relatively weak in 5-second sprints in comparison with match sprinters, and nonendurance track racers will likely have relatively low 5-minute and FTP levels relative to their abilities at the shorter durations.

Also keep in mind that, based on physiological considerations, an inverse relationship might be expected to occur between anaerobic and aerobic efforts—that is, someone who is great in aerobic forms of exercise, such as the Tour de France, may not be as strong in anaerobic forms, such as the match-sprint event on the track. At the same time, however, a positive association might be expected between pairs. (Although the scientific literature is in fact split on whether there actually is an inverse relationship between short-term and long-term power, there is clearly a positive association within each category.)

All-Rounder

The cyclist who is an all-rounder will have a generally horizontal plot across all the categories (see Figure 4.1A). That is, all four values will fall at about the same point in that individual’s range. The all-rounder does not necessarily excel at any one thing but is likely competitive in his or her category across a broad range of events.

Given the fact that only specialists will likely truly excel at the extreme durations, very few individuals will show this pattern and still fall at the upper end of each range. Instead, the vast majority of nonelite athletes will likely show a generally horizontal Power Profile because they have not yet developed specific strengths. This is a very common profile for beginning racers; as a racer or other rider trains more and more, those areas of strength will begin to reveal themselves.

Training & Racing with a Power Meter, 3rd Ed. by Hunter Allen, Dr. Andrew Coggan, Dr. Stephen McGregor TRPM3 all rounder phenotype 800x500

Sprinter

A good sprinter will typically have a distinctly downward sloping plot, especially between the 1-minute and 5-minute categories (see Figure 4.1B). Since aerobic ability is quite trainable, such an individual may be able to become more of an all-rounder through focused training; however, if the individual is a sprinter who has already been training hard for many years, he or she may have natural abilities in short-duration, high-power events. If so, focusing on events that favor these abilities, such as track racing and criteriums, is likely to result in success.

Training & Racing with a Power Meter, 3rd Ed. by Hunter Allen, Dr. Andrew Coggan, Dr. Stephen McGregor TRPM3 sprinter phenotype 800x500

Time Trialist, Climber, or Steady-State Rider

A distinctly upward-sloping plot (again, especially between the 1-minute and 5-minute efforts, but also between 5 minutes and FTP) is typical for the time trialist (see Figure 4.1C). This is because most time trialists are weak in neuromuscular power and anaerobic capacity, but they have relatively high aerobic power and an especially high lactate threshold. Though these athletes may be able to improve their performance by spending lots of time practicing sprints, this may not be the case if the training results in a decline in their strength, which is sustainable power. A time trialist could indeed improve his or her sprint, but the small improvements in the sprint may not result in more race wins; meanwhile, the time spent working on sprints would mean less time spent on improving FTP. In other words, by practicing sprints, the time trialist could lose fitness and perform worse in time trial races.

Training & Racing with a Power Meter, 3rd Ed. by Hunter Allen, Dr. Andrew Coggan, Dr. Stephen McGregor TRPM3 time trialist phenotype 800x500

Pursuiter

A sharply inverted V pattern implies both a relatively high anaerobic capacity and high aerobic ability, which makes a rider particularly well suited for events such as the pursuit (see Figure 4.1D). Alternatively, a potential all-rounder who simply hasn’t focused on raising his or her lactate threshold to its highest possible level may exhibit this same pattern.

On the other hand, the sharp V pattern is a relatively unlikely combination, given the expected inverse relationship between neuromuscular power and lactate threshold and the positive relationship expected between VO2 max and lactate threshold. If you find your power data reflects such a pattern, take care to ensure that the values are truly representative of your abilities.

Training & Racing with a Power Meter, 3rd Ed. by Hunter Allen, Dr. Andrew Coggan, Dr. Stephen McGregor TRPM3 pursuiter phenotype 800x500

Training and Racing with a Power Meter, 3rd Ed. is the definitive, comprehensive guide to using a power meter. Armed with the revolutionary techniques from this guide, cyclists and triathletes can achieve lasting improvements and their best performances ever.

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