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MALOJA PUSHBIKERS - SPORTS NUTRITION IN TRACK RACING

AN INTERVIEW WITH CHRISTIAN GRASMANN: "A DIRECT DRIVE, NO BRAKES, CLEAR FORMS – IT'S JUST AWESOME"

Mr Grasmann what is the fascination of track cycling?

Track cycling has so many fascinating facets. I think it's amazing that I can reach incredibly high speeds with wheels which are, in principle, the same as they have been for decades. A direct drive, no brakes, clear forms. The wheels have only really developed in terms of the equipment and their dimensions in recent years - which I find awesome.

The so-called "six-day races" (Six Days) are probably the best-known and toughest challenges on the scene and they have experienced a bit of a renaissance since the 2012 Olympic Games. How do you prepare for the demands of six days' straight racing?

I use the road season as preparation for the winter.
While I spend the summer mostly building up the big kilometres, I set two months before the start of the track season to work on fast, shorter sessions. This is important to train up the high pedal power I need on the track. Another training method is the so-called Derny training on the track or motor training on the road. Here you follow a lightweight motorbike and use its slipstream which not only saves you energy but also makes pedaling in the higher gears at high speed a lot easier.
Proper preparation doesn't just include training: you also need the right diet and an adjusted sleep rhythm. To achieve the right weight for the bike races, I use a high-protein diet and try get into night mode ahead of the six-day race. For me that means going to bed later and getting up later in the morning too.

In your new film "SIX DAYS – A Journey" you say that from the first minute of a six-day everything runs to a strict schedule for the riders – race, relax, massage, food, race, sleep. What influence does the planning and reliability of the coach, team and equipment have on the success of such races?
Confidence in the team, the equipment, the training and the diet is absolutely vital in our sport. Even in training you are reluctant to try out new things but during the race, where something is really at stake, you really can't.
The most important thing during a six-day race for me is to have a regular routine. I have my massage for example at 1pm so that from 2.30pm my circulation is back up and working as it should be. Then I go to eat. After eating I have a regeneration session, often in our camper, before we then go back into the arena, see the spectators and start the race.
If a day works out differently in the end I don't let it play on my mind.

Cycling teams at the Tour de France enjoy the luxury of having a private chef and dietitian around to take care of food and ensure that athletes get the right energy supply on race days. Who is responsible for your food and what does your body need in order to cope with the demands of a six day race?

The food available for a six-day race often isn't to everyone's taste and doesn't reflect the ideals set by the sports science sector. In contrast to the equipment, things haven't really moved with the times much in this area. So is up to athletes to know what they need and to ensure they get extra food when it's required.
Before, during and after the race we rely hugely on the support from our soigneurs. They get the products ready that we need, fill our bottles for continuous water and mineral intake, prepare the protein shakes before and after the race and also provide psychological support when things aren't going that well.

The special feature of six-day races is the extreme heat in the arenas at times, so we sweat a lot. Which is why the minerals and magnesium in our water bottles are crucial for us.
Because we have so many races in succession we obviously can't grab fried curry sausages or cheese rolls in between if we're hungry. We need energy that the body can quickly make available and so you can't have food that just sits in your stomach. So I always like grabbing an Energize bar.

For me personally, during the long season it's important to be able to have good variety when it comes to this kind of product. You have your regular basics for fast refueling, regeneration, etc. But you also want to taste something different and it's always great to try something new.

On the sixth and last day it all comes down to one final round, this is where it's all won or lost. Is there a secret to remaining reasonably sharp and focused after the hard graft of previous days going into the last race?

I'm not telling you any of my secrets (laughs) as they wouldn't be secrets anymore.
But what I can say is that one of the things in my routine is to drink a proper coffee or an espresso before each evening starts. So we always have an espresso machine in our cabin.

Before the big, important races and of course before the final chase on the sixth day, it also helps me to have a Cola Hydrogel with caffeine that my nutritionist Etienne Illegems gives me.
He's always there for me at all six day races, and often before the race I get a short massage in the wooden cabin, where we talk through the race ahead.

I can always rely totally on what he says. Before the final race he gets really pumped up and so we push each other on because we know that it's the last leg and building up to the race climax.