What is in a Tour de France rider’s musette?

What treats do Bora-Argon 18 riders get to feast on after the feed station?

Tour de France riders are faced with high mountain passes, the French summer sun and draining headwinds, which means they are engaged in a constant battle to take on enough fuel to sustain their daily endeavours during the race.

We persuaded the Bora-Argon 18 team to let us see inside one of the musettes used during this year’s Tour, handed out to riders in the one dedicated feed zone on each stage, usually around the halfway point on the parcours.

“All the musettes are identical apart from the rice cakes,” says soigneur, Andrea Feigl.

In fact, the only thing that is made by the team chef are the rice cakes, Feigl explains. Rice cakes are packed with energy and each evening, before the next day’s stage, the riders choose from a selection of flavours (banana, toffee or plain).

The musette also contains two bidons, one with water (marked with a ‘W’) and one with energy drink, as well as a can of fizzy drink for a sugary treat, two energy gels and two energy bars.

What’s in a Tour de France rider’s feed station musette? (Pic: Oliver Gill)

Feigl also says the team’s soigneurs only prepare nine musettes each day – one for each rider. “We don’t need to prepare any more as we rarely manage to deliver all of them to the riders,” she says.

After jumping in the car at the start and racing to get ahead of the peloton, Feigl and her colleague Blache managed to deliver three of the nine bags at the feed station during our visit. The other six bags are deposited in the team cars as they pass.

Feigl explains that the riders usually start off with enough food in their jersey pockets to last them well into the stage, and every rider has a nutrition strategy based on their personal preference and experience. Sometimes, she says, riders choose not to eat. “They eat so much before and then straight after that they prefer not to eat. They know what they are doing,” she adds.

If riders do want to eat, but don’t manage to grab a musette, one look inside a team car and you will see the side pockets are packed with the more gels, bars and other food. As the success rate of collecting a musette is rather low – the feed station is a chaotic snatch and grab as the peloton flashes by – most of the time riders will drop back to the team car (or send a domestique back to the team car) for sustenance during the race.

You’ll find two bottles (one water, one energy drink), a fizzy drink, two gels, two bars and (not pictured) rice cakes in each Bora-Argon 18 rider’s musette (Pic: Oliver Gill)

Although staying well fed during the race is vital, taking on enough fluids – especially during the heat of the Tour de France – is the most important thing, Feigl says. On a really hot day, it is not uncommon for the soigneurs to prepare 150 bottles for nine riders, and they are put them in cool boxes in the eight team cars spread across the course, ready to be handed out.

And if they run out, it will be up to the soigneurs at the feed station to hastily make more, either handing them to the team cars or directly to the riders as they continue the race towards Paris.

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