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Demands of the Event

Unlike stage races, “The Classics” are a series of one-day races where the racing starts from the very beginning! Typically, they are longer in duration (e.g. 5-7 hours) and the intensity and the overall energy expenditure is much greater than a flat or sprint stage in traditional stage races. In addition, The Classics are often raced in weather conditions of cold (<10 C), crosswinds and rain and consist of repeated high-intensity efforts that are often raced on short climbs and cobbled sections.

When taken together, the demands of the event ensure the action comes and thick and fast and the overall energy demands are considerably higher than many stage races. Indeed, it is not uncommon for riders to expend more than 5000 kcal of energy during the actual race as well as race at average power output close to 300 watts.

The weather conditions and repeated “efforts” all add to the complexity of fuelling for the event given that both colder temperatures and high-intensity efforts increase carbohydrate utilization (1, 2). Without doubt, the number one goal of fuelling for The Classics is to therefore ensure high carbohydrate availability before, during and after the race!

Pre-Race Fuelling

The principles of carbohydrate loading certainly apply in the 24 h period prior to the race where the goal will be to optimize muscle glycogen storage (3). The riders will be ensuring a high carbohydrate intake of 10-12 g per kg of body mass. For an 80 kg athlete, this would equate to approximately 800 grams of carbohydrate that is typically consumed in 3 main meals and high carbohydrate snacks. In such situations, high carbohydrate foods such as rice, pasta, breads, cereals, fruits / smoothies etc. are the “go to” solution. Such high carbohydrate intakes are, of course, very different to the habitual training day dietary intakes where both lower energy and carbohydrate intake is usually consumed.

Race day breakfast

Race day breakfast is primarily about “topping up” muscle glycogen and liver glycogen stores where the absolute carbohydrate intake is usually 2-3 g per kg body mass (4). At this time, cereals, pasta, rice, breads and fruit smoothies again provide the basis of fuelling options. As with any race day, hydration is also important here and at least 500 ml of GO Hydro is consumed along with a variety of fresh fruit juices.

In-Race Fuelling

During the race itself, the golden rule is to fuel every 20 minutes and to begin fuelling from the very beginning. We aim to consume 90 grams per hour on the bike where the first half of the race is primarily on solids through a range of “home-made” rice cakes that consist of rice, honey, sugar and fruits (each piece containing 20-25 g of carbohydrate). Our goal here is to really try and preserve our muscle and liver glycogen stores for the latter sections of the race for when the race really gets going (5, 6).

Given the intensity of the race, it can often be difficult to fuel and in situations where we “miss” a feed. Here, we will double up at the next available opportunity. Additionally, we aim to consume around 500 ml of fluid per hour, also containing approximately 20 grams of carbohydrate.

During the second half of the race, we make the switch to GO Isotonic Energy Gels and also introduce GO Energy + Caffeine Gels at pre-specified sites on the course. We aim to consume caffeine in the quantity of 2-3 body mass and it is consumed 30-45 minutes before the most intense parts of the race (7).

All of the above fuelling principles are designed to ensure we hit the hardest parts of the races with fuel still left in the tank in order to produce those race winning moves!




  1. Galloway, S. D., & Maughan, R. J. (1997). Effects of ambient temperature on the capacity to perform prolonged cycle exercise in man.Medicine and Science in Sports and exercise29(9), 1240-1249.
  2. Doubt, T. J. (1991). Physiology of exercise in the cold.Sports Medicine11(6), 367-381.
  3. Thomas, D. T., Erdman, K. A., & Burke, L. M. (2016). American College of Sports Medicine Joint Position Statement. Nutrition and Athletic Performance.Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise48(3), 543.
  4. Chryssanthopoulos, C., Williams, C., Nowitz, A., & Bogdanis, G. (2004). Skeletal muscle glycogen concentration and metabolic responses following a high glycaemic carbohydrate breakfast.Journal of Sports Sciences22(11-12), 1065-1071.
  5. Gonzalez, J. T., Fuchs, C. J., Smith, F. E., Thelwall, P. E., Taylor, R., Stevenson, E. J., & van Loon, L. J. (2015). Ingestion of glucose or sucrose prevents liver but not muscle glycogen depletion during prolonged endurance-type exercise in trained cyclists.American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism309(12), 1032-1039.
  6. Stellingwerff, T., Boon, H., Gijsen, A. P., Stegen, J. H., Kuipers, H., & van Loon, L. J. (2007). Carbohydrate supplementation during prolonged cycling exercise spares muscle glycogen but does not affect intramyocellular lipid use.Pflügers Archiv-European Journal of Physiology454(4), 635-647.
  7. Cox, G. R., Desbrow, B., Montgomery, P. G., Anderson, M. E., Bruce, C. R., Macrides, T. A., & Burke, L. M. (2002). Effect of different protocols of caffeine intake on metabolism and endurance performance.Journal of Applied Physiology93(3), 990-999.
Written By

Professor James Morton

A professor of Exercise Metabolism at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) and a Registered Sports and Exercise Nutrition Practitioner with the British Dietetic Association’s UK Sport and Exercise Nutrition Register (SENr), James is responsible for research and innovation at Science in Sport, overseeing the Performance Solutions Team.