The amount of food that Tour riders have to eat can change a lot from day to day. A flat stage requires a lot less carbs and energy than you might think as we discussed in the previous article. A hard mountain stage is the opposite. Riders often struggle to be able to digest enough food to cover their energy needs.
Mountain stages are often crucial for the general classification race. The Tour nutrition goal of every rider is to start the mountain stage with a full tank of energy, ingest as many carbs as possible on the bike and continue eating a lot to recover well. This is what a hard mountain-stage fuelling plan might look like.
The day before
It’s essential to start preparing the day before to replenish the glycogen reserves overnight. That’s why dinner usually consists of a big serving of carbs in the form of white rice. Some protein source like chicken is typically included too. Riders are often also given a high-carb dessert like pancakes or a fruit pie to really get as much energy in as possible. The aim is to get about 2-3 g of carbs per 1 kg of bodyweight.
Breakfast contains the usual omelette, rice, and juice but much larger portions than before a flat stage. And riders will often go for pancakes with jam to hit the desired 2-3 g of carbs per 1 kg of bodyweight.
On the bike
The amount of energy bars, rice cakes, and gels riders have to eat is crazy high for mountain stages. A 6-hour stage can easily require 20 pieces of such carb snacks. But the secret weapons in mountain stages are energy drinks. Pro teams use special multi-source drinks that allow riders to absorb up to 90 g of carbs per hour.
All of this heavy eating continues even when the riders finish and get off the bike. They start with a large recovery drink, later they continue with rice with syrup to get a huge amount of carbs in, and they often keep snacking on energy bars, fruits, and even candy. This recovery stage calls for up to 5 g of carbs per 1 kg of bodyweight.
The size of their dinner varies depending on what stage comes next. Unless it’s a rest day or an easy flat stage, the riders will still aim to eat 2-3 g of carbs per 1 kg of bodyweight and a good amount of protein to fulfil their Tour nutrition plan. They might have rice with salmon and fruit juice. Tour de France pros end the mountain-stage day with 15 g of carbs per 1 kg bodyweight or even higher. Don’t try this at home!