Eurofoods Part XI

Saturday, 12 March 2011

A bookend to the Eurofoods series where I want to look at a few small things rather than one single product.

produits dietetique

Produits Diététiques
There’s no exact translation for these products, they’re part diet-food, part health-food and you’ll often find a whole row in a supermarket dedicated to these products. There’s everything from rice biscuits to wholemeal pasta to vitamins and teas that apparently help lose weight. Only pharmacies in France can sell medicine like paracetamol so everything in the supermarket is benign, it’s food and certainly not medicine. But these are popular with cyclists, sprinkling flakes of yeast on salad is common for example.

No food
For all the talk of food, the unmentioned thing is that cyclists have to be skinny. I once met a coach who told me to lift up my shirt. I looked perplexed and he explained he wanted to see if I was carrying any bodyfat as there was no point coaching people who weren’t slim. You might see images of the pros but in real life they all look smaller, some are even quite frail looking.

Whilst many Europeans enjoy their food and are surrounded by tonnes of fine produce, many a cyclist deprives themselves. Cheese, wine and chocolate can be “unprofessional” and like kids some riders will eat these out of sight of their team manager whilst some will simply avoid these things. Sean Kelly once said he’d eat chips a couple of times in the winter but it was off limits in the season. Far from cycling being an excuse to eat that cake or a whole packet of chips, often the rider does an epic training ride and then stays in a haze because he has to lose weight ahead of an upcoming target.

Indeed there’s sometimes talk of eating disorders. It’s quite possible given the pressure to be lean but whether the percentage of cyclists succumbing to this is bigger than the wider population just isn’t known.

Empiricism and tradition
For all the talk of sports science there’s still a strong habit of “this worked for me 20 years ago, it’ll work for you” from many team staff. There are all sorts of tricks, habits and frankly weird recipes.

Chef Willy

Chef Willy serving wine for breakfast

Viewers of Beyond The Peleton will have spotted Carlos Sastre has a drink made from two eggs, sweet white wine and honey in the mornings. The late Frank Vandenbroucke used to eat pots of baby food, rationalising that it was purer.

The taste of home
Other riders find travelling on the road hard, that being in Belgium for weeks at a time doesn’t satisfy the taste buds. Many an Italian heading north for the spring classics will include packets of coffee or home produce in their suitcases. I once rode a hotel lift with two Italian riders when one opened a rucksack to bring out a packet of Lavazza Oro, it was treated as if it was a religious artefact. Whole Italian teams pack olive oil in the support truck, even if Belgium has a substantial expat community of Italians and home produce isn’t hard to find. The same is true for many riders who take some produce from home as a comfort on the road.

Bon appetit!

This is part of a series on European foods with links to cycling or simply for fuel:
Part I: Nutella
Part II: Pâte de fruits
Part III: Stroopwafels
Part IV: Coffee
Part V: Frites
Part VI: Pasta
Part VII: French Bakeries
Part VIII: Water
Part IX: Sirop
Part X: Pharmaceuticals
Part XI: Summary
Part XII: Esta Thé
Part XIII: Grated carrots
Part XIV: Speculoos
Part XV: Belgian beer
Part XVI: Oman Coffee
Part XVI: Italian Ice-cream

Pin It

{ 7 comments }

Tom Parr March 12, 2011 at 12:05 pm

“The same is true for many riders who take some produce from home as a comfort on the road.”

Contador, for example ;)

The Inner Ring March 12, 2011 at 1:14 pm

Ouch! The irony is that Pau and the surrounding Béarn area is home to some excellent cattle, as well as the birthplace of sauce béarnaise, the fine (but calorific) accompaniment to red meat.

Touriste-Routier March 12, 2011 at 3:11 pm

The best way to get one rider to stop eating? Point to another and say, “he’s skinnier than you”. ;-) I had lunch with a Euro Pro and an American Elite rider last week. It was amazing how little the Euro Pro ate. Even more amazing was he paid the whole bill!

Anonymous March 12, 2011 at 4:16 pm

‘Beyond the peleton’, white whine… really?

The Inner Ring March 12, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Touriste-Routier: in season attention is always required.

Anonymous: thanks, fixed

REG March 13, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Important to note is that some teams are bringing their own kitchen trucks during the grand tours. Bbox and Saxobank had their own trucks at the Tour de France last year. Those are the two I saw.

lieutenantmudd March 13, 2011 at 4:34 pm

The crazy thing to me is that cyclists have to watch their weight at all after being on their bike hours a day.

Compare what you wrote to this – http://blogs.wsj.com/health/2008/08/13/the-michael-phelps-diet-dont-try-it-at-home/

I guess the difference is that swimmers need to be in shape but not light while cyclists have to be manoxeric.

Comments on this entry are closed.

{ 2 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: