Wednesday has always been the day for long training rides, so Tuesday night is Steak Night. Nothing beats a lump of rump (if you’ll pardon the expression), chips, mushrooms, tomatoes and peas washed down with a couple of Leffe Blondes, followed by syrup sponge pudding and custard for afters. Anyway, this week the phone rang as I was sitting down to my pre-ride breakfast. It was one of my riding buddies, Phil: could he bring along two new guys? Well, ok, I said, but you know it’s 120 hilly miles. Are they going to be up to it? Yes, he assures me, they’re training for a triathon. Iron Men, he calls them. Well, the only Iron Men I know of were Eddy Merckx and Lucien Van Impe, so we’ll see.
Now, as far as I’m concerned a gentle intro to the ride is enough to allow that “full English” to settle down, but not with these blokes. They arrive in some flash motor and proceed to perform some sort of Jane Fonda routine to warm up. If that wasn’t bad enough, they then start guzzling what they called ‘carb loading’ drinks. With their collection of bottles for the day and a huge assortment of gel packets and energy bars, the back of their car was beginning to look like a Victorian apothecary’s shop. Oh well, quick check that everyone’s got spare tubes and I’ve got me jam sandwiches and we’re away. Now, I like a bit of banter along the way but these guys talked of nothing but diet, energy drinks and supplements. Blimey, as if cyclists haven’t got a bad enough reputation as it is.
They were obsessed with things such as glycogen levels and whether they had taken in enough protein or carbohydrates. Their knowledge of sports ‘products’ such as creatine, whey powder and malto-dextro-whatnot was quite frankly, worrying. Over the course of our route they consumed pints [half-litres, surely – ed.] of brightly-coloured liquid and countless gel packets; you’d think they’d never eaten real food, gone hungry or dug in and suffered in their lives. The human body has been designed to withstand hard physical work for hours on end fed only with a very basic diet; ask any miner, farm labourer or steel worker. If Tommy Godwin had relied on this sort of thing to sustain him on his epic achievement, he’d probably have contracted some horrible bowel disorder.
It’s no use some old Giffer like me trying to tell them where they’re going wrong; [are they? – ed] they simply don’t listen. No sooner had we finished our ride and they’re at it again, mixing up so called recovery drinks and downloading their heart rates for the entire ride. Thing is, what is going to happen when they stop? Some people these days are unable to walk down the road without an energy bar or work late without endless Red Bulls and coffees. Are their bodies simply going to become reliant upon these additives to power them and consequently shut down when they are unavailable or are these manufactured dietary wonders the answer to the coming world food shortages?