This weekend sees the final Classic of the season take place and the Giro di Lombardia is renowned as being one of the toughest one-day races on the calendar thanks to a hilly route and changeable weather.
Cycling’s one-day Classics are typically held over a longer distance than a single stage of a multi-day race and last year’s Giro di Lombardia saw Katusha’s Joaquim Rodriguez cross the line after more than six-and-a-half hours and 242km on the bike.
This extra time in the saddle, like last weekend’s World Championships, gives riders cause to stop and consider their preparation, according to Marcel Hesseling, nutritionist of Science in Sport-fuelled Belkin team, who advises his riders to carbo-load ahead of the race.
“For big races like this we have our own cook who prepares the riders breakfast, dinner and recovery meal after the race,” said Hesseling.
“The last dinner contains always pasta or rice with a low fat sauce, a small salad, an average steak or fish and a carbohydrate-rich dessert like rice pudding, crepes or a low fat apple pie.
“Carbohydrate is the most important fuel for a pro cyclist. I advise the riders to increase their carbohydrate intake but only the day before the race.
“To consume the right amount they have to eat a lot of carbohydrate-rich foods but it’s really important to do that with foods they are used to eating to guard against stomach upsets.
“Because it is really important their glycogen stores are completely full, they have to choose products with a high carbohydrate density (oatmeal, bread, rice, pasta, energy bars/drink, juices, etc).
“My advice is also to reduce the amount of vegetables or other foods that are high in fibre because these products create a feeling of fullness which leads to a lower carb intake.”
Hesseling says riders will eat breakfast approximately two-and-a-half to three hours before the scheduled race start and, with nearly 250km in the saddle ahead of them, it’s vital to eat foods they are familiar with.
“it’s important that the riders eat the food that they normally eat,” said Hesseling. “Our cook makes delicious pancakes, oatmeal and fresh bread. But there are also some riders who prefer spaghetti or rice with some olive oil and Parmesan. From then until the start of the race they might have a banana or SiS energy bar.”
The extra distance of a one-day Classic means riders have to eat “a lot” on the bike to stay fuelled, says Hesseling, and the changeable weather in northern Italy in October presents its own nutritional challenge.
“For a hard race like Giro di Lombardia it is important to eat a lot!” said Hesseling. “From the start to the finish they have to consume a lot of carbohydrates, though it depends on the weather if they choose to take carbohydrate in predominantly liquid or solid form.
“With warm conditions they drink up to two bottles per hour of SiS GO Electrolyte drink. Because these drinks also contain carbohydrates it is enough to take only one extra energy bar or gel per hour.
“With colder conditions they drink less, on average one bottle and two products (bar and/or gel) per hour.
“Both work out as close to 100g of carbohydrate per hour, which is more than the body can absorb, just to be on the safe side.”
The 2012 edition of the Classic of the Falling Leaves was played out in torrential rain, but Hesseling emphasises the importance of staying hydrated even when the weather isn’t on the peloton’s side.
“In colder conditions riders have to be focused on more solid foods. However, they must not forget to drink because this has a really big influence on their performance in the finale of the race. When it is really cold and it is hard to stay warm, the riders get also get handed up some hot, sugary tea in their bottles.”
Belkin Pro Cycling are fuelled by Science in Sport (SiS): www.scienceinsport.com