After most stages in the Tour de France, the pro teams have to disappear quickly. Once off their bikes it’s straight to the team coach for food, time to replenish their energy stores. Judith Haudum, nutritionist of the BMC Racing Teams explains what the riders eat in the final phase of a race, what goes on their plate straight after riding and what they really like to eat.
Sprint Stage, Stage 7, 190km, Livarot - Fougères
What was the main challenge in this stage?
Based on the profile, this is a stage for the sprinters. No cobbles, but still 190.5 km to cover. Some riders suffered on the cobbles and still feel some pain when they ride. For them, it’s more of a time to recover, for others it’s the most important stage because they are sprinters and they only have a few stages which suit their chances of winning.
Because you’re only able to win if you’re smart on the bike, this is what is needed in this stage: stay out of the wind if you are a sprinter, eat during the stage and find your position for a good sprint.
How does the food supply before and after the race work?
The preparation for the stage starts on the day before. We know what the transfer will be like, we know the distance to the start and also from the finish to the hotel. I want our riders to recover, so I plan with the team cook. We make sure our riders can get some food after the stage. We can’t allow them to come to the bus and just find cereal bars or pieces of fruit waiting for them instead of something fresh to eat. After the effort they have put in for several hours, recovery requires definitely more than that. We change during a stage race. I wouldn’t like to eat the same food every day, and the riders don’t like that either. Some have a favorite meal and are fine with rice after every stage. Others want to have different food every day. Because of that we also have many different foods that we use: milk rice, pasta dishes, fruit-based meals, rice-based meals… it is always a combination of carbohydrates and protein but the list is long to avoid too much repetition. Imagine boring menus and riders who don’t eat because they get the same thing over and over again – I’d have a big problem with that myself I want to make them eat and enjoy what they eat after a stage because their body needs it. We also want to be creative, something new and different can be very positive.
What’s very popular for after the race is also a fresh smoothie. Again, there are many recipes and many different ways to make them yummy for the riders.
What is important for the sprinter during the stage and shortly before the end of the stage in terms of energy supply?
On a stage like today it is very important to fuel up right from the beginning. Although a sprinter will try to let other team members work to protect him, he’s still riding his bike and still burning calories. If he wants to be ready in the finale, he needs to make sure he gets there in good shape, with muscles still able to work hard and push. We have seen some guys in the past months who were really empty at the finish and couldn’t keep up with rival riders, and hence lost the stage. I want to make sure this doesn’t happen in our team. We are supplied with Powerbar products and riders can fuel up again in time for the finish. And if they need the kick for the sprint, then it’s possible to take a caffeinated gel for sharper alertness and readiness.
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.