Whether we know it or not, we’ve all made reference to our phenotypes during our times as cyclists. “I’m more of a sprinter than a climber!” We say to our clubmates as they speed away from us on our local climb.

Put simply, your cycling phenotype is a way of describing how your power profile best fits specific cycling disciplines. There are a number of phenotypes but they boil down to three main categories; sprinter, steady state & all rounder. In this blog we’ll go over what constitutes these different types, how a coach can help you identify your phenotype and how this can help inform your training for specific events.

What are the Different Phenotypes?

Let’s begin with sprinters. By definition sprints are short efforts of between 15-60 seconds that primarily take place on flat roads. With this in mind sprinters work towards having a very high 15-60 second power output building up the heavy muscle mass required to do so. Sprinters are fast on the flat but suffer when the road heads upwards. Their higher weight and lower ability to hold high power numbers for long time periods means they struggle when it comes to climbs.

men racing bicycles

This leads us to our next phenotype, the steady state cyclist. To understand the steady state cyclist we need to look at the two different subtypes, climbers and time trialists.
A climber is essentially the polar opposite of a sprinter. Trying to keep their weight low and power high for as long as possible. While their absolute power may be lower than other cyclists their low weight enables them to climb much more effectively. Put them up against a sprinter on the flat and they wont even come close.

Bicycle racers cresting a hill

A time trialist is similar to a climber in that they aim to be able to put out high power numbers for a long period of time. But as their events are typically on flat courses they don’t have as great a need to keep their weight low. This leads to them having higher absolute power than a climber but a greater weight to go with it. This is also the phenotype you would expect to find successful triathletes.

The final phenotype is the all rounder. This one is exactly what it says on the tin. Often referred to as a rouleur, this rider tries to achieve high power numbers across the board without focusing solely on their sprinting or climbing abilities.

Why does your Phenotype matter?

Understanding phenotypes and using them to inform your training can be hugely beneficial when it comes to performance. This is where Blackzone Coaching can help you unlock your potential in a way online training platforms just can’t.

At Blackzone we recognise the differences between our athletes. Your coach will use your power data to identify your phenotype and program your training accordingly to fit your goals.

But how would this work when it comes to training for your key events? Let’s say you’re a criterium racer and you’ve self identified as a sprinter. But when it comes to that crucial final hundred metres of your race you keep on losing out.

A coach might look at your power profile and help you to realise you’re an all rounder who’s strengths lie in putting down longer efforts. By moving the focus away from sprints to longer 1-5 minute efforts a new way to race can be unlocked. By going for a breakaway earlier in the race, you eliminate the need to go toe-to-toe with the sprinters, increasing your chance of victory.


Bike racers passing at speed

How can we help?

A common mistake uncoached cyclists make is training to their perceived strengths and ignoring their weaknesses. Uncoached ‘climbers’ often spend all of their time practicing long efforts close to their threshold. Why train sprints if you’re never going to have to sprint, right? In actual fact performing sprints can raise your aerobic ceiling, leading to further improvements in your ability to hold power over longer periods.

It’s easy for cyclists to pigeonhole themselves according to self imposed ideas they have about their abilities. At Blackzone we combine our years of experience with a data led approach. Unlocking performance you never thought possible, whether you’re an out and out sprinter, climber or triathlete you can be sure we’ll create a bespoke program that fits you perfectly.

Get in touch with Blackzone Coaching and learn more about how a tailored coaching programme can help you realise your ambitions.