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Jumbo-Visma Nutrition at the Tour – Lessons Learned

By Jiri Kaloc

Team Jumbo-Visma is at the cutting edge of nutrition. What’s their secret? Is it machine learning, ketones or their performance chefs? Asker Jeukendrup, the head of nutrition at Jumbo-Visma, summarized on his blog the main lessons he learned from working with a top Tour de France team.

Starting with a solid plan

The planning starts weeks before the race. Every single stage is analysed and nutrition needs are estimated. To get these predictions right, coaches, performance directors, and nutritionists are all involved. The machine-learning algorithm is also involved in processing the data. A mix of technology and human input is necessary to do all of this in time and at high quality.

Excellent logistics are necessary

The Jumbo-Visma team has an advantage in one of its main sponsors. Jumbo is a Dutch supermarket and it plays a critical role. The team uses Jumbo’s experience in logistics and access to foods to make sure the right foods get to the right place at the right time. Jumbo trucks with food deliveries travel through Europe to supply the team exactly as needed.

You can’t do it without qualified staff

Succeeding in the Tour de France is not only about getting talented riders on your roster. The staff that cares for the riders behind the scenes needs to be world class as well. Jumbo-Visma made substantial investments in their staff. The team has 7 chefs led by Karin Lambrechtse. The chefs are also dieticians and developing into performance chefs. Everyone on the team is a part of the plan in some way. How well the staff can execute the plan is often the difference between a success and a failure.

“I have worked (and still work) in many places in sport and my advice and plans are mostly similar but the way things are executed are not always successful,” explains Asker Jeukendrup.

Eating needs to be fun

The main goal of nutrition is to make sure the riders get the right number of calories and nutrients they need to keep performing at the highest level for the whole Tour. In the early cycling days, that’s all nutrition was, carbs and calories. Riders ate overcooked pasta with red sauce day after day. If they could stomach it for 3 weeks, it worked. Jumbo-Visma goes a step further to help riders eat well and tries to make meals enjoyable and fun.

“The meals we have at both breakfast and in the evening are some of the most important parts of the day. We want to enjoy food, sitting down with the team, having a good time. It should be a celebration, and the food should taste great. The chefs are constantly evaluating meals and trying to improve them. Now we get riders asking to make the meals less tasty because they want to eat more,” describes Asker Jeukendrup.

Nutrition driven by science

There is a difference between jumping on every new supplement, diet or quick fix, and decisions based on science. The true magic happens when you get the basics right day after day. If you make a mistake in something fundamental at the Tour, you will pay the price the next day and may never fully recover. Most of the time, it’s not flashy or exciting work but it’s what’s needed.

“If you do the basics better than everyone else, you will succeed. This is also where science really makes a difference. A good understanding of the scientific literature will be the basis of a successful evidence-based approach. It is essential in keeping the nonsense, the hypes and the pseudoscience separated from the things that can make a difference. We can focus on real effects rather than just placebo effects”, explains Asker Jeukendrup.

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