The high mountains are often the make or break of Grand Tour dreams. As the road climbs and the air gets thinner so does the chance of success, riders can be on the attack one moment and out the back with the hunger knock the next. Energy demands are extremely high for all riders but especially for those vying to step on the podium at the end of three weeks. These stages bring all the excitement that cycling fans adore, but what toll does it take on the bodies and energy systems of the peloton? Dr Marc Fell, Team Performance Nutritionist to the INEOS Grenadiers brings us insight from the pro peloton.
WHAT IS DEMANDED OF THE RIDERS?
In the 2023 Giro there are over 51,000 metres of elevation gain across the 21 stages, with most of that coming in the five mountain stages. They are gruelling, taking on the Monte Bondone (Stage 16) or the Queen Stage finish atop Tre Cime di Lavaredo (Stage 19) to name a few. So, for the team to ensure that the team is poised to attack it requires an in-depth fuelling strategy. Dr Marc Fell explains, “With elevations of upwards of 4000-5000m climbing within a stage means that riders will expend exceedingly high amounts of energy and therefore it is of critical importance to not only ensure riders are well fuelled before these stages with carbohydrates but also to ensure they are maximally fuelling throughout them with the right types of carbohydrate based products. This will then ensure riders have the right amounts and types of energy to support them during the key moments whereby they may be following the attack of a rival or even attacking a rival themselves.”
FINDING THE FORMAT THAT WORKS
Where the racing is too intense or the climbs are coming thick and fast, the riders will be opting for “easy formats” that are packed full of carbohydrates like the Beta Fuel Gels providing 40g of carbohydrates, Beta Fuel Chews providing 46g of carbohydrates and Beta Fuel 80 Powder providing 80g of carbohydrates per bidon. The SiS Beta Fuel range was designed specifically for these scenarios, to deliver high amounts of carbohydrates in the optimal carbohydrate ratio of 1:0.8. This allows riders to conveniently fuel as high as 120 grams of carbohydrates per hour during these tough mountain stages through the use of scientifically superior fuelling products that will enhance the amount of carbohydrates that are digested, absorbed and utilised to ensure riders can give it their all on these hard summit finishes.
Given the harsh weather conditions that have been evident throughout the Giro means that fuelling can become compromised during these key mountain stages which can be catastrophic when trying to perform optimally. Therefore, Beta Fuel 80 Powder mixed into the team’s bidons can provide an optimum way of fuelling the team during such difficult stages. Soigneurs are strategically embedded throughout the stage at crucial points, like throughout mountain passes to help provide the necessary fuel for the riders ahead of the next effort. No doubt we’ll see a few of the team’s Soigneurs clad in the team edition Feed Station Bib at this year’s Cima Coppi in Gran San Bernardo.
KEEPING THE FOCUS
After over five hours in the saddle, fatigue sets in both for the body and the mind. This is where nutritional supplementation from Science in Sport further aids the team, as Marc continues: “Beta Fuel Nootropic gels or the GO Isotonic + Caffeine gels will be critical fuelling components – as they will not only provide energy but also with the additions of Nootropics and Caffeine will collectively enhance the rider’s mental and physical power output when they are pushing on the tough climbs. These nutritional stimulants can positively improve the rider’s performance when they are really starting to suffer on the steep climbs as they will have an impact on both physical and mental performance by the delaying the feeling of fatigue allowing the rider to push for longer.”
EXAMPLE OF A MOUNTAIN STAGE FUELLING
|Product||Carbohydrate content||Additional content|
|1 x GO Isotonic Energy + Caffeine||22g||75mg caffeine|
|3 x Beta Fuel Chew||135g|
|1 x INEOS Rice Cakes||20g|
|1 x Beta Fuel Nootropics||40g||200mg caffeine, 250mg Cognizin® Citicoline, 1g Taurine and 200mg Theanine|
|3 x Beta Fuel Gel||120g|
|3 x GO Energy Powder Bidons||94g|
|4 x Beta Fuel Bidons||320g|
|Totals||730g (121g per hour)||275mg caffeine, 250mg Cognizin® Citicoline, 1g Taurine and 200mg Theanine|
*This is an approximate breakdown of what the team might take onboard for a mountainous stage of approximately five hours of riding. Formats and products will change depending on rider tolerances, preferences and stage requirements.
HISTORY AS A REFERENCE POINT
Luckily for the team, they have one of the most legendary days in the saddle as a reference point to base this strategy upon. Of course, we refer to Chris Froome’s solo 80km breakaway on the mountain stage 19 of the 2018 Giro d’Italia. A day that not only transformed the team’s results that year catapulting the team into the lead and ultimately the win overall, but also, a revolution into the importance of fuelling. Relive the stage and go behind the scenes in our recap video of Chris Froome Blowing up The Giro here.
Although many of us won’t be taking on lengthy climbs such as the Passo Giau or back-to-back days of over well over 180km, we can still take the insight from the Grenadiers and apply it to our own fuelling strategy.