What's Cool In Road Cycling

What does a rider need to eat before a mountain stage?

In this second week, the Tour caravan has arrived in the Pyrenees. The riders burn a lot of calories during these tough stages. What are the most important nutrients the cyclists need to take and how does team chef Carol De Dobbelaere put them into tasteful dishes?

Carol De Dobbelaere, team chef Lotto Soudal: “During a flat stage, a rider burns about 6.000 calories. In a mountain stage the amount of used calories can be 8.000 to 12.000. Once the cyclists are in the mountains, it’s important that they absorb more carbohydrates and nitrates and less fibres.”

“Already at breakfast, the riders have to eat enough carbohydrates, in the form of pasta and rice. If there’s a normal jar of rice on the table, they won’t often take a second portion. That’s why I make sure that I prepare an omelette with puffed rice. I let the rice puff in the oven, afterwards I add an egg for each rider and some cheese. After that, I bake the egg in a frying pan. Finally, I make a soufflé of that egg in the oven. That’s very fluffy and it’s a tasteful way to eat a portion of rice. When the riders get on the bus after the stage, there’s always a recuperation meal available. That can be a potato or pasta salad. Sometimes, I make rice pudding, so that the riders can absorb some carbohydrates.”

“Nitrates are an essential nutrient. That’s why I bake waffles with red beet juice instead of soya milk. There are also a lot of nitrates in spinach, a vegetable that I often put in a smoothie. Every night, the riders get a frozen smoothie after their dinner. That cools them down and makes sure that the food digests well. If I make a smoothie, I sieve it to remove the pulp, because pulp contains a lot of fibres. When a rider absorbs too many fibres, it can lead to gastrointestinal complaints, especially during a hard effort or at high temperatures.”

“Breakfast is very important, certainly when there’s a mountain stage on the agenda. The riders eat more in the morning compared to the evening. During breakfast, there’s muesli and warm oatmeal on the table among other things. I also bake 35 pancakes and about twenty waffles. The riders may choose how their egg is prepared. Adam Hansen for example always eats a running egg. Five or six half-baked eggs, some olive oil, pepper and salt. He eats that for several years now.”

Menu Tuesday 14th July:

Soup
Zucchini soup

Starter
Polenta with smoked salmon

Main course
Roasted chicken or grilled salmon
Stir fried vegetables with honey (sweet-and-sour)
Grilled vegetables (red beet, zucchini, …)
Spinach with pine nuts and black berries
Potatoes roasted in the oven
Rice and tagliatelle

Dessert
Tiramisu of cottage cheese with red fruits and meringue
Smoothie

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