Tour riders are famous for the extreme amount of food they have to consume to keep going for the full 21 days. But it’s not as simple as trying to eat as much as possible. Their diet changes every day and one of the big factors is what type of stage is ahead. Let’s take a look at Tour de France nutrition and what adjustment they are making for flat stages.
All riders have to walk a fine line between losing and gaining weight throughout the Tour while, at the same time, having enough energy to race hard. And any mistake can cost them a stage or even the whole Tour. A flat stage usually means fewer calories burned and that needs to be reflected in the riders’ diet. This is what a flat stage fuelling plan might look like.
The day before
As always, good race nutrition starts the day before. With an easier flat stage coming up, riders can start adjusting their intake at dinner. They can get away with less carbs than usual and focus more on vegetables. A dinner day before a flat stage might consist of a vegetable salad, whole-grain carbs like quinoa, wild rice, potatoes or whole-grain pasta, a piece of meat, and some lighter dessert in the form of fruit. The goal might be fewer than 1 g of carbs per 1 kg of bodyweight.
The base of every breakfast will usually be very similar. An omelette, rice, fruit juice, and coffee. This is usually it for a flat stage, no second servings, no extra pancakes. The goal will probably be around 1 g of carbs per 1 kg of bodyweight.
On the bike
The number of energy gels, sandwiches or rice cakes consumed on the bike will depend a lot on the specifics of a given flat stage, team tactics, and individual needs. In general, a relatively conservative 50-60 g of carbs per hour of cycling should be enough.
As soon as riders finish the flat stage, they will start their recovery nutrition. This usually consists of a recovery drink, lunch, and additional snacks. A medium-sized recovery drink and a chicken with rice will probably be the most common choice here. The aim will be fewer than 1 g of carbs per 1 kg of bodyweight again.
Dinner depends a lot on what stage awaits the next day. If there’s another flat stage, it might be similar to last night. If it’s a hard mountain stage that awaits, then the carb intake will be ramped way up. Overall, a light flat-stage day might end with as little as 5 g of carbs per 1 kg of bodyweight.
Next time, we will take a look at how different a day of eating can be for hard mountain stages.