The Tour de France is 21 days of the most gruelling racing on the calendar. For most of us, just one day would be plenty, if we could even keep up! How do the pros keep going day after day? We asked the head nutritionist at team BORA - Hansgrohe, Robert Gorgos.
During the Tour de France, one of the most demanding cycling events in the world, riders have to pay close attention to their nutrition in order to perform their best over three weeks of varying terrain.
Since 2017, HIGH5 have been partnered with German pro cycling team BORA – Hansgrohe. The team’s head nutritionist, Robert Gorgos, tells us how they are preparing for the race.
A ‘typical’ day
At the top of the checklist for the team is food that is easy to digest and top quality. As the riders can burn over 5,000 calories in a day, they are consistently eating and drinking to remain at their best, but the real spotlight is on consuming the right types of food.
Breakfast is usually eaten around 3 hours before the start of the race, depending on the travel schedule of each stage. This can vary by individual start times on time trial days.
The team focus on eating nutritious foods, such as smoothies, fruit, porridge, bread with jams and honey, eggs, tea/coffee and sometimes pasta or rice.
During the race, the riders try to take on 80g of carbohydrates per hour, in both liquid and solid form. This can include HIGH5 Energy Gel Aqua or HIGH5 Energy Drink and HIGH5 Energy Bars or rice cakes.
In the first 1 to 2 hours of a race when the intensity is somewhat less, the team use HIGH5’s new Slow Release Energy products. This helps riders who are looking to save their muscle glycogen at the start of the stage and keep their energy levels high for the conclusive part of the race.
Recovering sufficiently is imperative in making sure the riders turn up ready to perform each day, especially during multi-stage races. Directly after they finish, they take on a HIGH5 Recovery Drink and waiting for them in the bus is a warm meal, usually rice with pesto, some fruit and soft cheese.
“Especially when you race every day for three weeks you cannot afford to run out of fuel on a single day, as it affects your recovery and as a result also the following days.” – Lukas Postelberger
After a difficult day, dinner is usually soup, pasta or rice, potatoes, meat or fish, vegetables and a small dessert. Again, quality and types of food are what matters here.
How does nutrition change throughout the Tour de France?
While the nutrition generally stays the same as the event progresses, sometimes the temperature and profile of the race can alter the strategy. On grand tours like the Tour de France, the chef will occasionally ask the riders what they want to eat if they’re feeling a little bit more creative!
Is the fuelling and hydration strategy the same for all the riders?
While the types and quality of the food is generally the same, the lighter riders need to take on less energy compared to the more muscular sprinters. However, it’s still important to make sure all the riders are eating sufficiently to refill their stores so they can turn up day after day.
“During such a hard race like the Tour and especially during long stages, not necessarily the rider with the highest performance level wins the stage, but the rider who is still able to reproduce a performance close to his best after hours of racing. Therefore, fuelling your body is key.” - Maximilian Schachmann
The Tour de France takes place over a range of flat and mountainous terrain, which means nutrition can vary depending on the profile of each race.
For the less intense stages on flat ground, the riders start off with Slow Release Energy products and solid food such as Slow Release Energy Bars and rice cakes. Towards the more decisive end of the race where the intensity is higher, they switch to liquid energy such as HIGH5 Energy Gel Aqua and HIGH5 Energy Drink.
In a harder mountain stage, nutrition is adapted depending on the terrain. During a climb, the rider takes on more liquid energy, while in flatter parts they are able to take on more solid food.
No matter the level of intensity or terrain, the riders still aim to take on 80g of carbohydrates per hour, and even more on a tougher mountainous stage.
Words by HIGH5
Images by Christoph Kreutzer