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Inside the Peloton

Hello Y'all,

My buddies at the Feed have been asking me to write up some of my thoughts from within the cycling circles. As the Feed provides some of the best nutrition out there, I thought why not cover the subject a bit more. If you want to hear more about what it's like to have a chef at a race, how team staff aids in our daily nutrition, what are the pros and cons in having a nutrition sponsor, then just keep on reading. 

Nowadays every team in the World Tour has a full-time chef, and often they end up working more race days then the most raced rider on the team. Whenever there is a significant race on the calendar, you can be sure the team cook will be there taking care of the riders (and riders only, the staff still gets to “enjoy” hotel food). Obviously, all three grand tours are fully catered by the team chef. Then most teams will have a cook for the classics and the biggest week-long stage races, think Dauphine, Suisse, Catalunya, Paris-Nice et la. Several of the teams even have food trucks that travel hotel to hotel, and some just use the hotel kitchens. However as you wouldn't like to share your office with anyone, the same way cooks don't like to share their kitchens either. It is essential to have the right meal before and after the race, so you get the necessary nutrients and that's why you need trusty hands to cook your food. Not only do they cook, but they also pick out the ingredients, which sometimes are even more important than the way you put them together. You need the right raw materials if you want anything to work out. Fresh, nutritious and delicious is what they aspire to present to the riders in every meal. Even during the race several of my teammates already are dreaming about dinner. The only downside to having a chef cook for you during three weeks is going back home where you have to turn on the frying pan yourself.

Another key staff member on the food side is the team nutritionist. Some teams have one or two, some teams still have none. If you have one nutritionist for 30 riders you actually might as well have none. Because clearly one person can't follow and answer the questions of so many riders. Usually, their job description includes several things. Firstly, measuring skinfolds of riders at races and camps, secondly, working close in contact with the nutrition sponsor on deciding what exactly the team will use and how much of the product is needed. Thirdly, they will work with individual riders on meal plans which usually takes up the most of the time. So you can imagine that a rider that's not in the top pile of the team just gets left to his own devices. Sure for a veteran of the sport, it's not a big deal, but some of the young kids coming into the sport really need some guidance.

You would think that having a company that gives your team all the nutrition they need is amazing. I can tell you it is not always the case. For one, they sponsor the team and not the riders, so rarely do riders actually get any nutrition for use in training. Imagine this, you either choose to buy the product that the team is sponsored by, or buy something else and then come race day try and make your stomach deal with the change. For some, it might not be a big deal, for people with more sensitive stomachs it might screw up their race. In my opinion even the fact that you as a professional athlete have to buy nutrition when your team is sponsored by a brand feels ridiculous. Even if you wanted to make a deal with another company that could provide you with products at home the team would not allow that as it goes against the team sponsors.

For two, there are brands out there that make everything from bars and recovery products to drink mixes and vitamins, but I don't know a single brand that does all of the products to everyone's liking. Sure it's almost impossible to please the taste buds of 30 riders, but some of the brands lack even the simplest things. An iron supplement is really important for endurance athletes, so is vitamin D, probiotics and of course other vitamins on the individual basis, but what if the teams sponsor doesn't provide it? Well... go to the store, buy what you need, hope it's good and cross your fingers it's not contaminated with anything banned. Good luck. 

Similar to the normal population, the riders are on different diets. Gluten free, dairy free, some even are vegetarians and vegans, but how many brands you can name that actually have options for these people and are sponsoring World Tour teams? Emm... Maybe 2. Maybe. All the riders with special dietary requirements can do is again go to the store and pack an extra suitcase full of three weeks worth of energy bars, recovery drinks and whatever else. Oh and I forgot to mention to make sure no one sees you eating non-team nutrition as you'll get in trouble even before you've unclipped. 

Weird how that works. Something that's so important isn't always dialed to the level it should be. All of this because money talks. Whoever pays the most chooses the music. So we all should be lucky our friends here at the Feed do exist. They cover you no matter what diet you are on. And I'm happy I can sometimes sneak into their office and snag some goodies.

Hope you enjoyed the read and feel free to leave some questions about this article, or if you have suggestions on what you'd like to hear from me next time, I'll be happy to oblige. 

~ The Peloton Insider ~