Stage racing is tough. Physically & mentally. Pushing yourself to the limit each day, crossing the line exhausted but somehow regathering, recovering and repeating for the duration of the race. There is no doubt food plays a huge part in this.
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We set off Monday morning, destination Czech Republic. A mere 820 miles between us and our accommodation is Krasna Lipa. Race day was not until Thursday so we had plenty of time to tackle the mammoth journey. Plenty of snacks- snacks are key. It is very easy when travelling to neglect nutrition and hydration, but really it should be one of the main focuses. The last thing you want is to travel all that way to get on the start line dehydrated and with low glycogen stores.

Team travel snacks consisted of:

  • Rice Cakes
  • Protein Bars
  • Mixed Nuts
  • Pretzels
  • Fruit
  • Popcorn

All washed down with OTE Hydro Tabs

A couple of days, and one rather eventful ride over the German/Czech boarder later, we arrived. I can’t lie to you, it wasn’t the most glamorous of destinations (although I have never really associated bike racing and glamour). Don’t get me wrong the Czech Republic has some stunning scenery, hillier than I had anticipated, and the race was fantastically run. But the accommodation, well that left a little to be desired. We were housed in an old school, it would seem hotels were few and far between in this part of Czech. On arrival, we were ready to run for the hills but as the week went on it is amazing how a basic, slightly tatty room can become a safe haven in a hectic and tiring week of racing. The four flights of stairs acted as daily leg tester, trying to gage whether they hurt more or less than the day before. However, putting it in context , we were there to race our bikes not have a holiday. It did the job.

Now stage race food can be a bit of a lottery. We see some of the men’s team being served up food to rival michelin star quality. Despite what social media portrays, this isn’t usually the case. Sometimes you hit jackpot, sometimes you live off dry granola & tuna wraps for a week. This stage race was somewhere in between. If plain chicken and boiled potatoes were your thing then you were laughing, as no exaggeration that was what every evening meal consisted of. I think it was the third night when we collectively cracked and drove over the German boarder to seek a proper restaurant and food with flavour.

Thankfully, we had also located a local Lidl on day one and stocked up on more snacks and essential items. I have to admit the food did become a lot more bearable as the days went on, although I am not sure what part fatigue played in this. One thing you quickly realise is, no matter what the food, you kind of just need to suck it up and eat what’s on offer. It is much harder doing a stage race on no food, than forcing down something that maybe isn’t to your taste.

Breakfast was a challenge in that the bowls supplied resembled a thimble and I’m a girl that likes a big (I mean big) bowl of porridge/granola in the morning. An essential item purchase of mine was a huge Tupperware for mixing large quantities of granola and yogurt each morning. The next challenge; the coffee, which was just not drinkable. Yes, ok I am a coffee snob, I love my bean to cup machine and rarely drink instant, but I am not sure what this coffee could be classified as. Pond water maybe? I went pretty much coffee-less for the entire week; quite a big deal for me, a self confessed coffee addict. All my caffeine kicks were coming from OTE gels that is for sure.

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In terms of in race nutrition, that was thankfully quite simple. 60g of carbohydrate per hour was the aim and with the well thought out OTE Energy System of 20g units it was easy to work this out. It usually consisted of a 500ml bottle of Energy Drink and an Energy Gel per hour, keeping the Rocket Fuel Caffeine Gel for near the end for a much needed boost. The stages weren’t long, around the 100km mark, but they were fast with no flat and in a bunch of 180 riders this made attempting to eat food hard. Gels & energy drink made fuelling much easier that’s for sure. A Whey Recovery Drink straight after each stage and an OTE Protein Bar before bed was essential for trying to alleviate muscle soreness and get the body ready to fight another day.
O and I am a great believe in a post race treat. Mine: A White Chocolate Magnum and jet black double espresso.

My top tip for anyone venturing to the unknown to train or race. Be prepared. Where possible pack essential food to help you get out of sticky situations and allow you to complete the job you went there to do.

As the old saying goes: Fail to Prepare, then Prepare to Fail.

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