Updated December 17th 2020 2019 Paddy Doran Cycling Blog
What type of cyclist are you
Are you wasting your talent in your current cycling discipline. Could you be a champion in some other discipline than you already compete in? Now could be the time to decide for success before you waste another season in the wrong discipline..
Many sports experts say “if you want to be a champion chose your parents very carefully” Your genetic makeup will determine to a large extent which cycling disciplines you can excel in.
The Olympic and World Champion track sprint champion will not win the Tour De France. Its also just as unlikely that The Tour de France winner will medal in the Olympic the Track sprint
So what kind of rider are you? Are you more of a track sprinter or tour rider?, Or might you be more like a combination of both of them? With good endurance and a strong sprinter.
Answering these questions could increase your possibility of success.
Track sprint and endurance cyclist
Sports medicine and physiology books show that the percentage of slow twitch versus fast twitch muscle fibre differs greatly between elite sprint and endurance athletes.
Elite endurance athletes having up to 80% slow twitch fibres which allows them to cycle for a long time at medium speeds. These athletes usually are quite light and don’t have much of a sprint.
but they can only hold the speed for a short period of time. Track sprint cyclists are usually heavier and very muscular. They also work hard in the Gym with heavy weight training to build very high strength and power.
Mix of endurance and sprint abilities
We can also see the athletes who have a reasonable mix of the two. The point’s winners in the big Tours are probably the best examples of this.
They are usually in between the size of the tour winners and track sprint athletes and they have good endurance and good sprint abilities.
Sam Bennetts green Jersey
Obviously Sam Bennett hs proven that he is one of these riders with his great Tour DE France Green Jersey and Stage wins in the Grand Tours. While he has built up a great deal of endurance he has also retained that high percentage of fast twitch fibres for that final 300m sprint.
So to put it at it’s simplest. If someone who is genetically suited to track sprint events trains to win Tour De France mountain stages they are unlikely to be very successful.
Its the same for an athlete genetically suited to endurance events. Can you ever imagine a grand tour winner beating an elite track sprinter in a track sprint?
You could be a mix of both and a green Jersey Contender if you have good endurance and a very good sprint.
Sprint or endurance, which is best for you?
If you have only started your competitive cycling recently you may be getting some idea of where your strengths are.
How to decide where your best potential lies.
How your training or races went to date
If you did well on hills. time trials or road mountain bike cross country or endurance events. This suggests that you should focus on the endurance events.
If you found that you couldn’t attack too much or move out of the bunch without getting really tired dropped etc, but could sprint very fast if you get to the finish after a comfortable race that may indicate that your talents lie in sprint events.
Other sports before cycling
For example if you played soccer, were you a midfielder that could run all day (endurance) or the striker who didn’t have great endurance but could accelerate like a bullet over a short distance (sprinter).
School athletics were you better at the sprint or endurance events?
Your Power Meter
if you have a power meter or smart Turbo trainer you can see what power you can produce for times from five seconds to 60 minutes.
There are some excellent tables available online where you can compare your power profile yo cyclists from club to pro level. The training with Power book by Andrew Coggan Has some excellent sections on identifying your strongest disciplines.
Obviously if you are a senior category (over 18 years )off the scale on sprint power but extremely poor on Endurance power or vice versa you probably should try specialising in one or the other.
if you are good on both you could consider which element you should focus on.
Whichever you are genetically suited to will be enhanced by training specifically for the most suitable events. Fast twitch fibres will improve dramatically with sprint/ power training and endurance training will greatly improve slow twitch fibres.
All round riders
There are also many riders who are not at the extreme end of either sprint or endurance abilities. These riders can influence their ability in either direction by focused training.
Intermediate Muscle fibres
As well as the Fast twitch and slow twitch muscles there are also intermediate muscle fibres, which can be developed to be more efficient for endurance or sprint sport according to whether emphasis on endurance or sprint training takes precedence.
So if you are reasonable at endurance and sprint events you could steer your training in the direction of whichever component will deliver best results for you. .
Riders like Nicholas Roche may be a good example of this approach with a capacity to improve his sprint abilities to some extent and clearly the ability to improve his endurance ability as his results this show.
Is there a potential World class sprinter in your Club?
I think there are probably people in clubs throughout Ireland who could be very good at sprint events but are racing in road or mtb races where their talents don’t shine..
So if you have determined that your talents are strongest for either endurance or sprint how can you make the most of that talent?
Train specifically for the event! It’s amazing how much improvements you can make if you target the right components and train them really well.
Is it worth concentrating on specific events? Yes! particularly if you have a good talent for either sprint or endurance events.
Paddy Doran High Performance Cycling coach at www.peakendurancecoaching.ie