How Lotto-Soudal fuel for a mountain stage of the Tour de France

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How Lotto-Soudal fuel for a mountain stage of the Tour de France

Lotto-Soudal team chef Carol de Dobbelaere shares his team's diet for the Pyrenees

A mountain stage of the Tour de France places a huge demand on a rider’s body – making nutrition absolutely vital, both to performance on the day and recovery.

While a flat stage of the Tour will typically see riders burn close to 6,000 calories, thanks to the high speed and relative protection of the peloton, a mountain stage can cost almost double that – with riders typically burning between 8,000 and 12,000 calories.

With the Tour de France currently in the Pyrenees, how exactly do teams fuel their riders to tackle the hors categorie mountain passes of cycling’s toughest race?

Lotto-Soudal’s Tony Gallopin has been one of the surprise stars in the mountains, riding in the front group on Bastille Day, one year on from his day in the yellow jersey last year – and the Belgian team’s chef, Carol de Dobbelaere, has revealed what fuels the team when the road ramps up.

De Dobbelaere has shared some of the meals he has rustled up for the Lotto-Soudal riders on Twitter, with frogs legs and beetroot waffles among his creations during the Tour de France, while in the mountains, De Dobbelaere ensures his meals are packed with carbohydrate (namely rice and pasta) to provide energy, particularly in the morning before a stage.

“Once the cyclists are in the mountains, it’s important that they absorb more carbohydrates and nitrates and less fibres,” de Dobbelaere explains.

 

“Already at breakfast, the riders have to eat enough carbohydrates, in the form of pasta and rice. If there’s a normal jar of rice on the table, they won’t often take a second portion.

“That’s why I make sure that I prepare an omelette with puffed rice. I let the rice puff in the oven, afterwards I add an egg for each rider and some cheese. After that, I bake the egg in a frying pan.

“Finally, I make a soufflé of that egg in the oven. That’s very fluffy and it’s a tasteful way to eat a portion of rice. When the riders get on the bus after the stage, there’s always a recuperation meal available.

“That can be a potato or pasta salad. Sometimes, I make rice pudding, so that the riders can absorb some carbohydrates.”

It’s not just carbohydrates that are important in the mountains, but nitrates, too – hence the beetroot waffles. Other options, de Dobbelaere adds, include spinach, which he puts into smoothies, but with the pulp removed to cut down on fibre.

“Nitrates are an essential nutrient,” he says. “That’s why I bake waffles with red beet juice instead of soya milk. There are also a lot of nitrates in spinach, a vegetable that I often put in a smoothie.

“Every night, the riders get a frozen smoothie after their dinner. That cools them down and makes sure that the food digests well. If I make a smoothie, I sieve it to remove the pulp, because pulp contains a lot of fibres.

“When a rider absorbs too many fibres, it can lead to gastrointestinal complaints, especially during a hard effort or at high temperatures.”

Tony Gallopin finished ninth on stage ten, which moved the Frenchman up to seventh overall (pic: Sirotti)

When it comes to fuelling for a day in the mountains, the most important meal of the day is the first one, says de Dobbelaere .

Muesli, oatmeal, pancakes and waffles all feature on de Dobbelaere’s menu, alongside an abundance of eggs – with Aussie hard man Adam Hansen a stickler for his favourite high-protein start to the day.

“Breakfast is very important, certainly when there’s a mountain stage on the agenda,” de Dobbelaere. “The riders eat more in the morning compared to the evening. During breakfast, there’s muesli and warm oatmeal on the table among other things.

“I also bake 35 pancakes and about twenty waffles. The riders may choose how their egg is prepared. Adam Hansen for example always eats a ‘running egg’ – five or six half-baked eggs, some olive oil, pepper and salt. He eats that for several years now.”

The reward, however, comes after a long day in the saddle, when riders sit down to relax for their evening meal. What’s on the menu? Here’s what de Dobbelaere prepared after stage ten, the first day in the Pyrenees, and when the team’s sprinter, Andre Greipel, also reclaimed the green jersey.

Lotto-Soudal evening menu – Tuesday July 14

Soup
Zucchini soup

Starter
Polenta with smoked salmon

Main course
Roasted chicken or grilled salmon
Stir fried vegetables with honey (sweet-and-sour)
Grilled vegetables (red beet, zucchini, …)
Spinach with pine nuts and black berries
Potatoes roasted in the oven
Rice and tagliatelle

Dessert
Tiramisu of cottage cheese with red fruits and meringue
Smoothie

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