Preparing a hard day in a Grand Tour – Part 1

Preparing a hard day in a Grand Tour – Part 1

Preparing for a Grand Tour does not happen overnight. Not for riders, but also not for the staff, which includes us: the performance staff and nutritionists of the team. So, when does the preparation start regarding to nutrition? What needs to be prepared when it comes to nutrition? Spoiler: probably more than you expected…

Five to six weeks before

The specific nutritional preparation for a Grand Tour starts about eight to ten weeks before, dependent on the timing of races and training camps (at altitude) that serve as preparation for the Grand Tour. In this preparation phase, nutritionists work closely together with the trainers, race-coaches, chefs, soigneurs, and of course with the riders themselves. Because nutritional preparations involve way more than just ‘food’!

Nutritional preparations step by step by step

When it comes to the specific tasks that need to be done in the nutritional preparation for a grand tour, some tasks start really early and some can only be done just a few days before. We’ll take you with us, step by step:

Step 1: training

Maybe this is directly the most important step in the process. During the specific preparations towards a Grand Tour in training, nutrition plays a fundamental role. Not only because the riders need to recover well from every training session to be prepared for the next one, also things like (high carbohydrate) fueling and hydration strategies on the bike needs to be practiced. Furthermore, this period is used to fine tune the body composition of the riders and to support their training sessions wherever possible, nutrition-wise.

Step 2: analysis of the stages

First all stages of the Grand Tour will be analyzed. This will be done by performance coaches and nutritionist. Obviously, we consider when there is a time trial or not, but it involves a lot more than just that. Also, for the other stages we’ll need to map what kind of stage it will be; relatively flat, a climber’s stage, very technical, very intense or relatively easy? We use a lot of historical data to do this and include things like the role of a rider (helper, sprinter, leader, …) and individual characteristics. Closer to the start of the race, we will also include the weather forecast (wind, temperature, …). All those factors are in the end very important for the nutrition part. We’ll explain you why in the next steps.

Step 3: riders & tactics

After (and partly simultaneously with) step 1, tactics and riders come into place. Who will be selected exactly, what will the tactic be for each stage, what is our goal? These factors will influence the nutritional strategy that will be made. For example, the demands of our riders will be very different in a stage where we want to be in the breakaway, compared when riders try to preserve energy for the next day by staying in the peloton.

Step 4: nutritional strategy & algorithms

When we know the ins and outs of each stage, the riders and tactics, an initial nutritional strategy can be developed. This strategy is tailored to the riders needs for each stage, for example: will we use Neversecond’s C30 Sports Drink or might we need the C90 High Carb Drink at certain moments? Would it be beneficial to include caffeine, for example by a Neversecond C30+ Energy Gel or not?

As you can imagine, a mountain stage will most probably have a different nutritional strategy than a relatively flat stage. Luckily, we get some help with estimating the needs for the riders per stage, by algorithms. These estimations help us to make the first nutritional plan!

"When we know the ins and outs of each stage, an initial nutritional strategy can be developed"

Step 5: food food food!

When the strategy is there, the first real ‘food’ preparations can have a go. Our chefs will start developing and planning meals within the ranges that are set by the nutritionist. These meals will match the riders’ specific nutritional needs at each moment of the day. And yes… this process takes time. Let’s count: +- 25 days x five meals/snacks = 125 personalized meals per rider, at least! In addition, the process of meal planning involves not just food, but also logistics and detailed planning. All ingredients have to be ordered, while at the same time the chefs need to make sure each ingredient arrives at the right time in the Grand Tour, to ensure products are still fresh when needed for the meal.

Step 6: packing and GO

When all the pre-work is done (and checked over and over again), a few days before the start of the race, packing will be done. The kitchen truck will be loaded by chefs with the ingredients for the first meals. The truck is equipped with a large fridge and freezer, to keep the ingredients fresh. However, we want foods to be fresh the entire Grand Tour and thus we cannot take all products in one go. Therefore, there will be a resupply of fresh foods once or even twice during the Grand Tour itself. Soigneurs make sure all the sports nutrition from Neversecond is brought to the race in the right amounts. When everyone is packed and excited to start the Grand-Tour, it is time to GO!

As you can see, nutritional preparations can take quite some time. And as you might have read between the lines, this are “first nutritional strategies and plans”. This means a lot can and must happen when being in the Grand Tour itself… What does a day in a Grand Tour look like when it comes to nutrition, and how do the meals of our riders look like? We’ll tell you that in the next blog!

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