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Cycling Nutrition

Aged 16 I used to be able to eat a whole 12 inch pizza and the free one that came with it. My day would revolve around toast – one loaf or pasta – one kilo. Then we’d get to the pizza. At a svelte 10 stone I was your typical racing snake. Not an amazing cyclist, but fit and with not one centimetre of body fat. To be fair I looked like a slightly overweight skeleton. Anyhow, I had carbs to burn and burn them I did. I’d quite happily ride all day with just a bidon of water and lemon juice for company, only succumbing to hunger at the end of the day as I fell from my bike in a cramping mess outside a news agent. Here I’d feverishly dispatch a Marathon and Mars bar, only to be restored back to full health almost immediately. So what was happening and why?

It is clear I was eating an awful lot back in those days, but what was it which allowed me to ride to virtual destruction? I was not eating to ride, I was just eating. To give you some indication as to my confusion, now I need to eat before a ride – one hour before. Two or three Weetabix and a banana washed down with a coffee. I then need something with a little pep so stop for an espresso at Natter Café on the way to meet up. During the ride I eat one or maybe two slices of flapjack or a High5 bar. Add to this a minimum of a litre of water loaded with an electrolyte. Following the ride I can only think about eggs. Scrambled are best, but it does not matter. Eggs, and then some bacon and coffee. And more eggs. My point is though I now tip the scales at 14 stone 6 and have a good deal more “stored” energy I do not seem to be able to get at it. Granted, more exercise and the odd fasted ride burn fat, but why was I able to ride harder for longer when younger and without a feeding regimen? I’m not scientist so don’t have a clue, but likely something to do with by beer intake and the fact I am approaching 42 years of age.

A quick look around our club suggests I am not the only one who needs to fuel up for a ride. But that is where the similarity ends. There is as much variety in what we choose to eat as what we choose to ride. Clearly one size does not fit all. From jelly babies to pistachios, flapjacks to apples, it seems anything goes. For me I need to eat something which goes down quickly; too many times have I inhaled an oat whilst on the go. Stopping solves this issue, but who wants to stop? Honestly! We must all need similar nutrients because we are all pretty similar animals. I suspect if we ran our diets past a professional they would suggest we could do better. They might also tell us that what we like may not be the best thing for us to eat.

We do not have the benefit of a dietitian. Some of us read literature, some of us just wing it. What feels right, what feels good? One thing is for sure, a massive pub burger does bugg3r all at the halfway point during a century ride.

With remarkable foresight a member of the club decided to do a little research before our epic ride from Guildford to Bordeaux. He surmised that if he was going to need to carry his food for the day he’d find the one item which packed the most punch per gram. It was with great pride the result of such a rigorous analysis was displayed before all at the start of the ride. A Mattesson’s smoked sausage. Boasting 310 calories per 100g it was his choice. Interestingly the sausage went uneaten – the member in question is a self-confessed foodie and could not stomach the prospect of eating such a thing. Nobody mentioned the extra 200g he carried for 600km…

Personally I’d have gone for lard; at almost 900 calories per 100g it is surely superior?

As I sit here writing and finishing my delicious Jollof rice dish it occurs to me it would be a pretty good fuel source. But that is where I stop. It has many of the things I might crave, but would I really want to be repeating allspice or garlic…?

Approaching acute despair whilst writing about a subject I know nothing about, I probably need to up my game. You may recognise the lack of Google help with this article and may well applaud me for trying to do so using guile and bullshit. Instead I will give you a recipe, and one which was tested on our Etape effort last year. It fulfilled the few requirements I could think of, from a very personal perspective.

1. Meal needs to contain fuel. A good dollop of carbs but the protein to do something or other.

2. It needs to be tasty. No point eating rice cakes.

3. It should be bowel neutral. I would not like to wake up to the shits on the morning of a TDF mountain stage. Equally who likes riding on a turd?

4. In all the meal should take no more than one hour and include not more than 5 ingredients.

5. A compliment to the one beer or glass of wine you will allow yourself.

Etape Sausage Ragu with layered garlic

2 pounds of good quality sausage meat from a reputable butcher 4 sticks of celery 3 carrots 3 large onions 1 red chilli 500g cherry tomatoes Lots of garlic 1 can tinned tomatoes 4 bottles of good quality continental lager from the fridge Small bunch of fresh oregano Large bunch of fresh basil Tablespoon of dried fennel seeds Glug of good balsamic vinegar Glug of good quality virgin 2 pounds of penne pasta Pink Himalayan Rock Salt Pepper Wireless speaker/radio/Hi-Fi


- Switch on wireless speaker/radio/Hi-Fi and select your favourite tracks/programme

- Open 1 can of quality continental lager from the fridge, drink half

- Pop a generous glug of good quality Olive Oli in a large heavy bottomed pan and set to medium heat

- Chop the celery, onion and carrot into small pieces roughly 2-3mm across and pop in the now heated pan

- Cook until sweating and add the fennel seeds and half the chilli, finely diced

- Roughly chop 5 cloves of garlic and add to the pan

- After 3 minutes add the sausage meat and stir to break up

- Add glug of good balsamic vinegar, stir in and cover for ten minutes, stirring occasionally

- Roughly chop 5 cloves of garlic and add to the pan, stir. Leave covered for 10 minutes.

- Add chopped oregano and basil. Stir and leave covered for ten minutes

- Pour in remainder of lager and cover for 5 minutes, then turn up the heat and leave uncovered for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally

- Open 1 quality continental lager from the fridge, drink half

- Add tinned tomatoes and 500g of chopped cherry tomatoes. Pour in remainder of lager and cover for 30 minutes

- Roughly chop 5 cloves of garlic and add to the pan

- Cover for 30 minutes

- Roughly chop 5 cloves of garlic and add to the pan

- Cover for 30 minutes

- Roughly chop 5 cloves of garlic and add to the pan

- Open 1 quality continental lager from the fridge, drink half

- Remove lid and add bubble

- Pour in remainder of lager and leave uncovered

- Repeat garlic and lager for as long as you can be bothered until your sauce is darker and thicker than the cold heat of Satan. The longer the better

- Fill a deep steel pan with fresh mountain water and add pasta, a glug of olive oil and pinch of pink Himalayan salt. Bring to the boil then simmer for 10 minutes.

- Drain pasta and return to the pan. Add a glug of olive oil and pinch of pink Himalayan salt

- Open 1 quality continental lager from the fridge, drink it all

Serve in a large flat bowl, pasta on the bottom, ragu on the top. Sprinkle on a little grated stravecchio parmigiano – reggiano and chopped basil.



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