After nine strenuous stages, a day off finally arrives for Tour de France riders. But even on these non-competitive days, putting their feet up isn’t really an option for members of the team, nor for the riders. A short break away it definitely is not! The pros take their bikes out for a low-tempo ride. One difference to the stages though is they get do get to have the odd treat while they are out.

Is a rest day really a rest day?

Finally a rest day after nine stages! Some riders can enjoy the break and relax. But a rest day isn’t just about lying in bed. Even on the rest days, the riders jump on their bikes. They don’t ride at race speed and it’s a ride with a stop at a coffee shop built in. That’s probably one thing recreational athletes can learn from pros. Most of the recreational riders are so serious about their training that they forget the nicest part – stop at a coffee shop and enjoy a good coffee and sometimes a piece of cake. That’s what we do!

What is special about a rest day?

The special thing about a rest day is that riders get to eat three regular meals. This may sound strange but when you look at other days, they have their lunch on the bike. On a rest day, the riders and the staff have the chance to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner in the hotel. And this makes a big difference – the stomach and also for the mind. It’s great to have a lunch, to sit down and eat in a quiet hotel. Although the hotel is not always quiet – there are more teams in a hotel, family members come and other guests are there as well. The riders often get visits from their families. Of course, it depends on where they are from. For the riders, it is important to get support from their family and spend the day with them. It is also important for clearing their heads. Refreshing and very motivating for the days coming up.

Is a rest day a rest day for the staff?

On a rest day we staffers also need a break but we don’t get a full break. It is more relaxed, you don’t need to get up early in the morning to prepare for the stage. You can sleep in… until 7.30! And a rest day most of the time also means there is no transfer. We have had Tours where we had a transfer on the rest day but most of the time we stay in the same hotel. This makes it easier and also gives us the chance to relax. Unlike the riders, the staff hardly gets visits from their family. But we have other ways to relax.
Soigneurs, the cook and the nutritionist check their foods for example. A rest day is a good day to do some grocery shopping. Riders are hungry and eat a lot, so we also need a lot of food. Cereals, rice cakes, fruit, pasta, rice, grains, fish, meat, milk – we check everything and estimate what we need for the next few days. If you can plan ahead and get some stuff in ahead on the rest day, it’s easier on the following race days.
Another good thing on a rest day is also the time you have for some physical activity. On a race day it’s hard. Either you get up really early or you don’t train. During the day there is no time, there is only one thing going on – the race.
So a rest day for the staff is also something positive. We are glad to have them.

Do meals differ compared to a race day?

Walter, our chef, prepared the meals in the way I outlined before. The breakfast is different on a rest day. There is no stage, so riders won’t have pasta or rice in the morning. A normal, regular breakfast is fine. Our breakfast table is full of good things anyway, so pasta and rice are not even missed. Different types of muesli, spreads, fresh fruit, dried fruits, seeds, milk, juices, breads, teas, egg or omelette. Enough choices for everyone to have a wonderful breakfast.
Lunch and dinner don’t differ in their composition. Our riders can always get carbohydrates, protein and vegetables on the buffet. The amount of food is different. An easy bike ride doesn’t require huge meals. What is important for the riders is to load up again for the next day and eat enough to have their energy stores full. It is a challenge and some riders don’t know how to change the energy intake on a rest day. You are used to eating a lot on race days and when you train, you usually don’t eat a lot. But at the Tour de France this is a different situation.

Judith Haudum is 33 and comes from Salzburg in Austria. The qualified sports scientist, lecturer and expert in sports nutrition works with the BMC Racing Team, which Powerbar supplies with high-quality sports nutrition as its sponsor.