Van Dijke close to stage victory in Tour of Luxembourg
Tim van Dijke has finished third in the second stage of the Tour of Luxembourg. ...
Recovered, fueled up and excited: the (next) stage of the Grand Tour can begin. In previous blogs you could read how we prepare for a grand tour in terms of nutrition and what a day in food looks like for our riders. For performance, all meals are of importance. But as you may understand proper fueling ON the bike itself is key in finishing a Grand Tour stage on the highest level. And that can be a challenge, not only for our riders but also the creation of a proper and well executed fueling plan.
Making sure that our riders are properly fueled during each stage in a Grand Tour is more than just simply handing out some bottles and gels. It is about a strategy, logistics, communication, and the execution. How do we create a proper fueling plan, and what are take-aways for your own ride?
At Team Jumbo-Visma, it starts with the day-by-day nutrition strategies. These are already developed to a large extend before the Grand Tour even starts and are based on science, our riders, the types of stages, our tactics and our goals. You can read more about creating these strategies in blog – part 1. Ultimately, the pre-devised strategy serves as the basis for the fueling plan implemented in the days’ stage. However, the final strategy depends on the day itself. For instance, it may become way warmer than expected, echelons can occur, or tactics change depending on the evolution of the Grand Tour. All factors can influence the specific nutrition needs for our riders, which we must act on.
For sure our riders can ride for a while with the fuel they take with them from the start of the race (in bottles in the bike or in their pockets). The general goal is to have about two NeverSecond products (which each contain of 30g carbs) per hour in addition to the bidons. With two bottles on the bike to start with and a few bars and/or gels in the back pockets they are good to go. However, in one hour of cycling, especially the bottles can be finished soon. One to two bottles (1-2x 500ml) per hour are no exception, especially when it is warm. So more, sometimes much more, is needed. Here teamwork comes into play: we need our staff to refuel our riders. And that can be a challenge…
A desired fueling strategy can only become a fueling plan once the logistics are prepared properly. And this is a challenge. The deployment of people and cars is not unlimited, but every time a rider needs to drop to team car to get bottles, he will waste a lot of energy. At the same time, the stage route can make it hard to refuel our riders at the points they need fuel the most. Next to that, there are also some rules for fueling where each team needs to adhere to, for example: teams are not allowed to resupply in the first 30 and last 20 kilometers and riders cannot throw away empty bottles just everywhere to make room on the bike for new ones. There are special waste zones for throwing thrash and often there is one fixed supply zone where all team’s staff can hand out fuel. Although, it mu
st be said that some rules may change, for example in hot weather where feeding sometimes is accepted in the last kilometers and furthermore teams are free to add additional supply points themselves.
The sports director together with the team nutritionist take care of this logistical refueling challenge. With use of the Grand Tours’ stage information and additional detailed information on the route, the best spots for refueling are checked by them. The nutritionist decides what to fuel at each point in order to execute the nutrition strategy as perfectly as possible. In the end, choices must be made in order to create a logistical plan that is most feasible to succeed and supports our rider’s nutrition wise as good as possible.
Fun fact: Last Tour de France the sports director and team nutritionist managed to cover 21 fueling points in one stage, with just the same number of staff!
The strategy has become a plan. Each staff-member knows where to be at what time point. As mentioned above, the team nutritionist decides what is handed out at each fueling point, which also means: it can change from point to point. What is or can be handed out exactly?
Once the final fueling plan is clear, there is still one very important element left: communication to the riders. The plan needs to be communicated well with each rider in order for the plan to be carried out to the last detail. This communication actually starts already in training, where the nutritionist and rider work together on making a nutritional strategy practical (like how many products to take per hour to hit a certain fueling goal). This way a rider is familiar with certain intakes and knows how to approach each strategy. When the Grand Tour is there, the daily fueling plan is communicated to the riders and staff the day before each stage starts, and in the bus before that start.
Finally, also during the race itself the plan will be communicated via radio communication. Sports directors will remind the rider when they are approaching a certain feeding point, plus what will be available at that point. Furthermore, it will be communicated that riders need to eat and drink at specific moments during the race. The multiple types of communication all support the best execution of the plan!
What makes a drink, gel or bar the best possible choice for our riders? In professional cycling, the intake of carbohydrates is most important. In order to achieve the highest possible intake, sports nutrition should contain a mix of carbohydrates. A combination of glucose + fructose seems to be ultimate in the delivery of carbohydrates.
Within our team we aim for sports nutrition that contain this multiple carbohydrate sources, like NeverSecond. Why NeverSecond is the best match according to our riders?