The Power Profile Chart: defining your strengths
Determining what type of cyclist you are is an essential part of creating a personalized training program. What are your strengths and what could you improve? One way to find out in which category “you belong”, is by using the Power Profile Chart and the Power Duration Curve.
The Power Duration Curve
The Power Duration Curve is a very simple way to determine your strengths and weaknesses. Essentially, the Power Duration Curve is nothing more than your mean maximum power output for a certain duration. For example: if you are able to ride at a mean wattage of 400 Watt for 5 minutes, 400 will be the 5-minute value of the graph etc.
This Power Duration Curve is just a reflection, or a connected string of your best power outputs. Are you a rider with an outstanding short sprint? Then your Power Duration Curve will likely be high during the first few seconds, after which it will drop quite drastically. Are you a climber? Then your Power Duration Curve will be relatively lower during short sprints, but higher at longer durations (both compared to the sprinter).
How will you define yourself?
This results in a flatter Power Duration Curve of the climber compared to for example the sprinter. In other words; the climber is able to sustain a higher output for a longer time than the sprinter. This requires a high aerobic capacity, a high Lactate or Anaerobic Threshold and a well-developed economy or cycling efficiency. In addition, to overcome gravitation, the power-to-weight-ratio of a climber is really important. The more power you can produce per kilogram body weight, the greater your advantage on a climb! On the other end of the spectrum: the sprinter’s Power Duration Curve is higher during very short activities, which is followed by a steep decline in power output during longer efforts.
For the time trialist, the power at lactate threshold (FTP) is a good performance predictor and therefore an important training objective. A high sustainable power is required, which requires a great muscle mass. A true time trial specialist could weigh more because aerodynamics is more important than gravitation in a (flat) TT.
Don’t you excel at one discipline specifically? Then you might be an allrounder. Typically, an allrounder doesn’t excel in one of the disciplines but is generally performing well in a minimum of two disciplines.
The Power Profile Chart
However, your maximal values of the Power Duration Curve aren’t always necessarily a reflection of your current state. Your maximal mean power output of 400 Watt for 5 minutes might have been measured months ago, just before the winter. No way you will approach that value now!
The Power Profile chart is an easy way to determine your current strengths and weaknesses. Basically, the Power Profile Chart is a summary of your Power Duration Curve. Mean maximum power values for 5 seconds (Neuromuscular Power, NP), 1 minute (Anaerobic Capacity, AC), 5 minutes (VO2max) and power at Lactate Threshold (FTP, or LT), make up your Power Profile Chart. These four values can be tested quite easily.
In order to keep it simple, cyclists are categorized into 5 broad groups or phenotypes:
- Time-trail specialist
The allrounder doesn’t really excel at any of the disciplines but has a descend level in multiple or all disciplines. This is also very common in novice cyclists, because they don’t excel at any discipline yet due to the absence of structured training.
Of course, the sprinter will excel at fast, powerful movements. A typical sprinter will be able to deliver a lot of force in a short amount of time. Therefore, a sprinter excels in the “Neuromuscular Power”. Also track racers and criterium-racers may display such a Power Profile Chart.
The time trialist
The time trialist typically is able to sustain a high-power output at the lactate threshold or anaerobic threshold. Time trialists have a high VO2max but are less strong in sprints or activities that rely heavily on anaerobic capacity.
As the name suggest, a pursuiter excels at activities like a pursuit. Pursuiters often have a high anaerobic capacity and are therefore capable of producing very high power outputs for a relatively long period (a matter of minutes instead of seconds).
Next: Determining your training objectives.
Want to know your own VO2max or Lactate Threshold? Or do you need help with your training? Let us know via firstname.lastname@example.org or have a look at https://de-vitaliteitspraktijk.nl/inspanningstesten/conditietest/.
- Friel J. The Cyclist’s Training Bible. 5 ed: VeloPress; 2018.
- Allen H, Coggan A, McGRagor S. Training + Racing With a Power Meter. 3 ed. Boulder, Colorado: VeloPress; 2019.