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FUELING AS A TOUR DE FRANCE CYCLIST!

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BY NEIL VALLANCE

This year’s Tour de France (TdF) has an overall distance of 3 329km and 48 530m of climbing. The amount of time the winner will ride to complete the Tour will be around 80 hours if they average 41.5km/h over the 21 stages. This means a lot of fueling as the intensity is high and there is a lot of time spent on the bike. As they say, a TdF cyclist is not only fueling for today’s ride, but also for tomorrows!!!

Which Hammer fuels would you need to use and how much of each fuel?

Well lets first have a look at the typical general nutrition and calorie count for each day. Each cyclist will need to consume between 5000 and 8000 calories per day to keep their energy levels up and their muscle mass intact. This will start with breakfast from 8-9am, 3 hours before the race start and includes primarily carbohydrates in the form of bread, muesli, cereal, fruit, smoothies and much needed protein from omelettes and nuts. Ideally, they will avoid the tasty pastries at the hotels as these take longer to digest and can leave the rider feeling heavy at the start! Around 90 minutes before the start riders will have a snack of rice cakes, raisin bread or a sports bar. (Writers note: This does sound strangely similar to the “How To Hammer” …wink, wink!)

The riders will aim to consume anywhere from 60g (240 calories) of carbs per hour on the easier days, and up to 120g (480 calories) of carbs per hour on the toughest days. The teams have noticed a slight decrease in caloric intake over the last few years which has been linked to the toughness and speed of racing. Always remember that TdF cyclists systemically train their gut to consume all these calories for months before the Tour, just like they train their muscles and cardiorespiratory systems to perform.

So, which Hammer products would supply the right amount of calories for a TdF rider?

The bulk of the calories would be from 35-40g of carbs from an electrolyte energy drink like HEED, per hour. The rider would then supplement the extra calories with a Hammer Gel, preferably caffeinated and bars every 30 minutes. On longer, tougher stages, more solid options would be introduced in the form of rolls with jam, rice cakes and more bars that provide easily digestible food. This hourly intake could almost double during the big alpine climbs!!! So here is an example of the Hammer breakdown:

  1. 1.5 scoops of HEED per hour or 150 calories or 40g of carbs.
  2. 2 x Espresso Gels per hour or 180 calories or 44g of carbs.
  3. 1 x Apple Oatmeal Bar per hour or 190 calories or 31g of carbs.
  4. Note: Apple Oatmeal Bar contains a further 65 calories in protein and fat!
  5. Total of the Hammer fuels is 115g of carbs or 460 calories in carbs!!!

Yes, yes, we can hear you saying, “But what about Perpetuem and needing protein for longer rides?” The peloton do try add protein in the more solid food options and bars and there is the occasional experiment with ketones and BCAAs, but a protein fortified carbohydrate drink does seem to be lacking. A simple equation would be to replace the 1.5 scoops of HEED with 1 scoop of Perpetuem so you end up with very similar numbers. Are there any TdF cyclists reading this who would like to try Perpetuem?

Once the stage is over the riders will try drink a carb rich recovery drink with 20-25g of protein within 30 minutes of finishing. You might still see the occasional rider drinking a cola drink but a lot of teams are actively avoiding colas for a bespoke recovery drink like Recoverite. The bus trip to the team hotel is a good time for sandwiches, rice cakes and cereal bars. This will be followed up by dinner at around 8pm that will start with salad and soup, then a main meal of meat and carbs. The old days of overcooked pasta for dinner every day has long been forgotten! Healthy snacks are available for the riders before the lights go out at around 10-11pm. If all goes well the rider will then be fueled up, sleep well and give a good performance in the next day’s stage.