Starting L’Etape strongly comes down to what training you’ve done. But finishing it strongly can be as simple as eating and drinking on the day.
Not having enough to eat and drink almost cost Chris Froome his first Tour de France victory, when he went dangerously close to going hunger flat on the final ascent of Alpe d’Huez.
Luckily, for Chris, Richie Porte was there to save the day and deliver a carbo gel.
At an event like L’Etape, surrounded by a large group of riders and enjoying the buzz of the early part of an event, it’s easy to forget the simple things.
So start L’Etape, and any other events or races you do in the lead-up, with a fuel plan.
Aim to start eating within the first hour. By the end of the first hour aim to have a nibble on something every 30 minutes. You won’t be able to replace every calorie you burn. You’re simply trying to keep your fuel stores topped up by consuming around 150 to 180 calories an hour.
Eat the more solid food early (bars, bananas, etc) and save the double espresso carbo gel for the bottom of the Col de Kosciuszko.
Get well hydrated before the start and then drink one bidon per hour, even more, if it’s hot.
The old cliché of “once you’re thirsty, it’s too late” is a reminder of the need to stay on top of your hydration. Just keep sipping away at it.
Dehydration disrupts your metabolic processes and has a hugely negative effect on your performance.
Hydration is power.
Needing to stop for nature breaks is a good thing. If you don’t need to stop, at least once, on a four plus hour ride you haven’t been drinking enough.
Stopping too long during bathroom breaks or food stops is like putting lead in your legs. You’ll feel better over the course of the ride if you keep it moving.
So fuel up and get going again. Save the story telling for afterwards.
Practice your event day fuel plan on your long weekend training rides. Keeping the calories up and staying hydrated will also enable you train better, hence improving your overall fitness.
Avoid the mid ride café stop, save that for the end, and make regular eating and drinking a habit.
Being one of the most recognisable voices of cycling, Matthew Keenan regularly forms part of the international commentary team at the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana, broadcast around the world from Europe, USA, Africa, New Zealand and on SBS in Australia.
Matt is one of the two official voices of L’Etape Australia by Le Tour de France.