Imagine biking 2,000 miles. It could be done over a year, right? Now, imagine biking that distance in three weeks.
Done imagining things? Me too. But, in the next three weeks, 200 some cyclists are going to bike that at mind-boggling speeds.
How they stay fueled for those six-hour days in the saddle is an interesting read. Here are two examples:
– A blog post at Esquire.com tracked a day in the life of a racer’s stomach while on the Tour. The racer is Thor Hushovd, who races for Team Garmin-Cervelo, and who happened to be leading when the article was posted Tuesday.
According to the blog, his nutritionist, Robby Ketchell, estimates that “Thor (at 6 feet and 182 pounds, he’s a giant by bike-racing standards) burns as many as 6,000 calories during a stage of the race. Continually replenishing this energy debt is critical to weathering a twenty-one-day effort. That means eating 250 to 300 calories per hour while racing (the maximum that the body can absorb during exercise, according to Ketchell), and relying on the team’s traveling chef, Sean Fowler, to prepare breakfasts and dinners loaded with enough lean protein, vegetables, fruits, and clean carbohydrates to keep the guys in top condition.”
– Perhaps an even more thought-provoking read was an article in the Wall Street Journal about American David Zabriskie, who is attempting to be the first rider ever to ride the Tour eating a (mostly) vegan diet.
Most nutritionists and athletes may furrow their eyebrows when trying to comprehend Zabriskie’s diet. According to the article, “The conventional wisdom is that eating plenty of meat and dairy provides protein to help cyclists’ muscles recover, and that the iron in red meat keeps the body producing ample amounts of hemoglobin, part of the all-important red blood cells that transport oxygen to the muscles.”
The WSJ story lists a typical day of food for Zabriskie. He plans on adding small amounts of fish a couple of times a week. The fish, Zabriskie says in the article, helps his body absorb certain vitamins and iron.
When Zabriskie first started cutting out meat, dairy and eggs from his diet, he noticed some changes. Good changes.
According to the WSJ story: “After nine months on the diet, Zabriskie says he’s feeling better than ever. He has had some of the best results of his career and says he feels more focused. ‘I think a lot of people see food in terms of whether it’s going to make them fat or make them skinny,’ he says. ‘I’m seeing food in terms of how it’s going to make me think and will it give me clarity.’”
His team director, Jonathan Vaughters, required him to take blood tests to be sure his ferritin levels remained stable on the vegan diet. They did. “He’s won more time trials this year than he has in his career,” Vaughters was quoted as saying. “The proof is in the pudding.”
During the Tour of California in May, Zabriskie won the time trial. Last month, he blew away the competition at the U.S. national time trial championships in Greenville, S.C.
“I knew I had done everything right,” Zabriskie was quoted as saying.
Zabriskie isn’t going to win this race. However, the article states, “if he just finishes, he could become a hero for advocates of the vegan diet – at least those who don’t mind the fish.”
Vaughters says it might change the way professional athletes view veganism. “This is definitely the ultimate test of the vegan diet,” he says in the WSJ story. “If it works here, no one can ever say you can’t do X,Y,Z as a vegan.”