Empty stomachs and stodge

A day of training on your bike can be pretty gruelling. Mile after mile, up and down hills. So what better way to refresh than with some tasty fresh fruit? That was what the BCM Racing Team pro Amael Moinard thought, and knowing how tricky it can be to munch an apple while perched on your bike, he decided to take his rations with him in liquidized form. No sooner said than done: armed with his home-made fruit puree, he felt ready for whatever life would throw at him. But for all his eager anticipation, his fruity refreshment did harbour a problem: “The puree I’d made was so thick that I couldn’t get it through the lid of my bottle. So I had to take the lid off – which made it really hard to drink on the move. I ended up with it all over my hands, and with the most horrendous sticky mess on my handlebars!” Nonetheless, the Frenchman did manage to get some of his ‘semi-liquid lunch’ into his stomach, so he at least filled up a bit.

Colleague Manuel Quinziato would have given anything for a full stomach on one of his training trips. In his first year as a professional racer, his ambition got the better of him when, despite temperatures of minus two degrees, he set off for a spot of training one early January morning. “After about 40 minutes I was absolutely starving. I found myself on this frozen-over deserted pathway. But I had to get home somehow, and so my training session soon turned into a survival test! If I hadn’t managed to get back, my body probably wouldn’t have been found until March.” The Italian hasn’t left the house without spare inner tubes and emergency gel since!

Quinziato’s compatriot, Manuel Senni, prefers not to get into this kind of situation in the first place and always takes plenty of fuel with him. One day, he put four PowerBars and two PowerBar gels in his pockets to get him through a six-hour session on his bike. “But on this particular day, I was so hungry that, before I was even halfway through, I’d already eaten everything I had with me. On the final climb I was ravenous. But with my supplies totally depleted, I just fell into a massive hole. It was such a steep climb that, when I finally made it to the top, I had to have a sit-down on a bench to recover a bit! The return route was absolute torture, and I’ve been really particular about what to take with me for sustenance ever since.” 

Senni was one of the lucky ones. His disaster happened to him during training. For Loic Vliegen, it happened in a race. Back in 2014, he had really been looking forward to La Fléch Ardennaise, the finish line of which was just a kilometre away from his house. “This was going to be my race on my home ground. I was so excited and so desperate to win. The race was really tough, but it went really well. 40 kilometres from the finish, my teammate Stefan Kung and I were headed for victory. My legs were doing just great that day. But then, about 20 kilometres from the end, I noticed my strength was ebbing away. I realised I hadn’t eaten or drunk anything yet. In all the excitement, I’d just totally forgotten about it. I was empty, and it was too late for the two PowerBar gels our team director had given me to help. My legs were dead. I just couldn’t hold on to the lead any more. Stefan and I were about 1’30 mins ahead of the rest, though, so we were quite lucky, and Stefan cut his speed a bit. He knew exactly what winning this race meant to me, so he wanted to wait for me. But then, five kilometres short of the finish line, everything went black. Stefan still wanted to wait for me. But that was it. I just couldn’t go on. I managed to drag myself over the finish line somehow, but the others were hot on my heels. Once I’d made it, I felt absolutely dead. If my dad hadn’t been there to catch me, I would have just collapsed. I immediately wolfed down five PowerBars, and then, half an hour later, up on the podium, I felt like I was floating as all my fans cheered for me. That alone made it worth all the hassle, but I definitely won’t be forgetting to fuel during a race again!”