Fueling a champion: what Orica GreenEdge feeds Tour Down Under race winner Simon Gerrans during a race

Interview with Orica GreenEdge soigneur about what riders eat during the stage.Author James Raison & Credit Photos to Chris Komorek,EcoCaddy.

Danny Clarke

Danny Clarke

Seven hours before Simon Gerrans won Stage 4 of the Tour Down Under in South Australia, his soigneur Danny Clarke was hard at work preparing food for him and the rest of the Orica GreenEdge team to eat during and after the race.

It’s theoretically simple but logistically complex.

Danny starts by explaining exactly what is in the consistently wrapped foil packages he’s laid out.

He prods the largest packages containing rye bread sandwiches.

“That’s walnut and philly (Philadelphia cream cheese) spread, and this is philly with ham,” he says, before moving down to the smaller ones marked ‘sweet’.

“Those are orange and poppyseed cakes.”

On the bench next to him is an enormous slab of savoury rice cake ready to be sliced and wrapped

“That’s just ham, Arborio rice to make it sticky, and some soy sauce,” says Danny, handing me a slice of the chewy and mildly salty cake.

The sweet rice cakes sound a bit more palatable.

“They have cranberries, sultanas, honey and condensed milk to bring it all together.”

The food is simple but nutritious. The texture is important too, riders have to be able to chew and swallow it during the race.

“I alternate sweet and savoury rice cakes every day,” says Danny.

“One batch will last me two days, so the riders think I’m cooking them a different flavour every day, but I’m just alternating them,” he laughs.

The wrapping has been as carefully chosen as the ingredients.

“This paper has come from somewhere in Germany,” says Danny. “I don’t know what they do with it, but we use it for wrapping race food,”

It looks like tinfoil with a thin paper on one side and it is so important that it travels with the team around the world.

Danny lays out the full contents of a musette: two sandwiches, a sweet rice cake, a savoury rice cake, two gels, and two water bottles. Each musette will feed one rider for the stage and Danny personally hands the bag over to the team in the feed zone.

Post-race food is being prepared too, but unlike at other tours, the riders have the luxury of eating it back at the tour village in the middle of Adelaide because the stages all finish close to the city.

It’s a precise mix to take care of all the riders’ post-race needs.

“First they get a protein shake straight off the bike,” says Danny. “Then a couple of water bottles. “

Thirty minutes later they are fed meat and salad sandwiches, then an extra carb snack, he explains pointing to his slab of rice cake again.

The Orica GreenEdge team won four of six stages of the Tour Down Under, and Simon Gerrans took overall victory and the points classification. That phenomenal success is built on the efforts of unsung helpers like Danny Crke.