The Tour de France is one of the toughest endurance events in the world. Teams and riders have to pay a lot of attention to how they keep energy levels up throughout the 3-week race across both flat and mountainous stages.
HIGH5 have been a partner of the German pro cycling team BORA - hansgrohe since 2017. We spoke to their nutritionist Robert Gorgos to find out how the team are preparing for the tour.
What does a typical day look like?
For the team, food that is quality and easy to digest is top priority. A rider typically burns over 5,000 calories per day, so riders are constantly eating and drinking throughout the day, but there is a lot of focus on consuming the right kinds of food.
Depending on the travel schedule around each stage, breakfast is eaten around 3 hours before the race is due to begin. On time trial days, this will vary more depending on individual start times.
On the menu: Smoothies, fruit, eggs, porridge, rice, bread, jams and honey, nuts, sometimes pasta. And even the elites get their morning brew with coffee and tea on the menu too!
Try this from BORA - hansgrohe: Spelt pancakes with berries and honey
During the race
HIGH5’s new Slow Release Energy products are used in the first 1 or 2 hours of a race when the intensity is a bit lower. Riders are looking to spare their muscle glycogen at this time and keep energy levels high for the decisive part of the race later on.
After the race
After an intense race, recovery is hugely important to make sure the exhausted rider turns up ready to perform the next day. Waiting or them at the finish line is a Recovery Drink and a warm meal, usually rice with pesto, some fruit and soft cheese.
“Especially when you race every day for three weeks you cannot afford to run out of fuel on a single day, as it effects your recovery and as a result also the following days.” – Lukas Postelberger
After a hard day, the team can usually expect a dinner of soup, pasta or rice, potatoes, meat or fish, vegetables and a small dessert.
Try this from BORA - hansgrohe: Spelt pasta with asparagus
Flat vs Mountainous stages
With the Tour de France taking place over the different terrain, nutrition can vary by intensity.
For ‘easier’ stages on flatter ground, the team start with Slow Release Energy products and more solid food such as Slow Release Energy Bars and rice cakes, and when the intensity ramps up, they switch to liquid energy such as Energy Gel Aqua and Energy Drink.
In a more difficult mountain stage, nutrition is adapted to the race profile. When climbing the rider takes on more liquid energy, and in flatter parts more solid food can be digested.
Whether it’s flat or hills, the team are always aiming to take on 80g of carbohydrates per hour, sometimes even a little bit more, especially on tough mountainous stages.
How does nutrition change as the race progresses?
The nutrition strategy for the team tends to stay the same throughout the Tour, depending on the temperature or profile of the race. Although sometimes the chef might be feeling a little more creative and ask the riders what they want to eat (as long as it is not super fatty or difficult to digest)!
Do all the riders fuel and hydrate the same?
While the types of food are more or less the same, you’ll find the lighter riders taking on a little less energy compared to a more muscular sprinter. However, it’s important to make sure every rider is eating enough to refill their energy stores so they can perform day after day.
“During such a hard race like the Tour and especially during long stages, not necessarily the rider with the highest performance level wins the stage, but the riders who is still able to reproduce a performance close to his best after hours of racing. Therefore, fuelling your body is key.” - Maximilian Schachmann
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