The Tour de France is one of the toughest endurance events in the world and cycling in it puts the body under a lot of stress. Teams and riders must pay a lot of attention to energy, hydration and recovery throughout the 3-week race across both flat and mountainous terrain. To keep performing at a high level, it's imperative to get the nutrition right.
HIGH5 have been a partner of the German pro-cycling team BORA – hansgrohe since 2017, helping them perform at the highest level. We spoke to their nutritionist Robert Gorgos to find out how the team are fuelling races like the Tour de France.
Adapting nutrition for different route profiles
The Tour de France takes place across varied terrain, so nutrition can vary by race intensity.
For flat stages, the team start with Slow Release Energy products and solid food, such as Slow Release Energy Bars and rice cakes. As the intensity ramps up towards the end, the riders switch to liquid energy such as Energy Drink and Energy Gel Aqua. This helps to get energy to the muscles more quickly.
Mountain stages can be more difficult, so nutrition is adapted to the race profile. While climbing, riders find it easier to take on liquid energy. When there are flatter or downhill sections, more solid food can be digested.
No matter the terrain or intensity, the team are always aiming to take on 80g carbohydrate per hour, sometimes even more on tougher mountain stages.
As the race progresses, the nutrition strategy tends to stay the same, depending on the temperature or profile of the race.
What a typical day looks like
Easy to digest, quality food is the team's top priority. A rider can burn over 5,000 calories per day, meaning they need to constantly eat and drink through the day, but it isn't just about consuming lots of calories. The focus is on taking the right kinds of food.
Breakfast is eaten around 3 hours before the race start time, depending on the travel schedule around each stage. This gives the riders enough time to digest breakfast fully. On time trial days, this will vary more depending on individual start times. Breakfast usually consists of smoothies, fruit, eggs, porridge, rice, bread, jams and honey, nuts, sometimes pasta, and of course tea and coffee.
During the race, the riders aim to take on 80g carbohydrates per hour, with a mixture of liquid energy, such as Energy Gel Aqua or Energy Drink, and solid energy, such as Energy Bars or rice cakes. It's important to regularly drink and eat so the riders don't run out of energy at any point of the stage.
HIGH5's 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, recovery is hugely important to make sure the exhausted rider turns up ready to perform the next day. Waiting on 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.
Do all 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 at their best 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
HIGH5 Slow Release Energy Pack
The Slow Release Energy Pack contains all the products and flavours of our new Slow Release Energy range, providing you with longer-lasting energy. Enhanced with Ocean Minerals for an invigorating hit of magnesium and over 70 minerals and trace elements. Get yours here.