With the Giro d’Italia in full swing and The Tour De France just around the corner we very much have cycling on our mind!
I was fortunate enough to attend and assist at the 2015 Tour Down Under in Adelaide where some of the world’s greatest cyclists took on the largest cycling event in the Southern hemisphere, putting on an impressive show over 6 stages. It was fantastic being track side taking in all of the amazing event atmosphere.
Part of my role was helping out at the dining room where cyclists would have their morning and evening meals. As a Sports Dietitian it was really interesting to be able to have a chat to some of the riders about their experiences on tour; on competing, training and nutrition.
It is an impressive feat to put on a banquet, twice a day, for 133 cycling power machines plus their support crew. As you can imagine, during race week it is vital for riders to have easily digestible carbohydrate options for energy, protein for recovery and also fat to meet their exceedingly high daily requirements.
With cyclists from 19 teams coming from 23 different countries variety and options are key. If we take a look at breakfast for example:
• 6 cereal options plus porridge
• Almost any fruit you could think of, with or without yoghurt
• Cold meats, cheeses and olives
• Croissants, pastries and rolls
• Toast with eggs whichever way you would like them
• Tea, coffee, juice, juice and more juice
After meal times, most cyclists would leave the dining room with a juice, yoghurt, bread roll and/or a piece of fruit. There were only a couple of special requests on top of what was initially offered being that white rice must be available at every meal time, and extra virgin olive oil to pour over almost anything!
My highlight off the course was meeting Cadel Evans who was kind enough to stop
for a chat about his race week nutrition. While he ensures that he gets in a sufficient amount at meal times his key points were:
• Carbohydrates are the most important fuel leading into race days, but not too much… patting his stomach.
• While what you eat before a race is significant the greatest importance is on what is consumed on the bike during each stage. (For example: gels, bars, sports drink, a trusty vegemite sandwich etc).
My experience at the Tour Down Under has given me a greater appreciation for the struggles that these athletes go through on and off the road and the people who provide their meals. So while you are all enjoying the European cycling action this winter spare a thought for the challenges which need to be overcome to ensure the cyclists are well fuelled to put on the best show possible!
For more information on carb loading check out Cake or Pasta? Carb loading – what’s the go? or SDAs fact sheet on Road Cycling.
Rachel Stentiford, Accredited Sports Dietitian