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.


Taking The Plunge (Into A Wading Pool) With Trek-Segafredo

Author Chris Komorek.

Details Trek-Segafredo post-race recovery, interview with Daniel Green, head of sport science and assistant team coach. Quotes from cyclist Kiel Reijnen.

As the Trek-Segafredo riders roll back into the Tour Down Under village in the middle of Adelaide from a scorching hot stage on the roads of South Australia, there’s one factor that sets them apart from their competitors. It’s a shallow, wading pool – suitable for ages 6 months to 3 years, a sticker warns on the side. It’s the kind of pool you’d expect to see your two-and-half-year-old cousin splashing around in with rubber duckies, not elite cyclists.

No rubber duckies here though. Just ice cold water. The whales, jellyfish, turtles and starfish decorating the edges are a nice touch, but no one was being fooled into thinking this was going to be fun.

“Ice plunge baths are something I’ve done in the past and something I want to introduce more regularly,” says Daniel Green, Trek-Segrafedo’s head of sport science and assistant team manager. Ice baths are important for recovery and most pro-teams have them in place. In fact, Orica-Greenedge upgraded their hotel room to one with a bathtub.

Peter Stetina and Kiel Reijnen, the team’s American contingent, are the first to take the plunge. Reijnen eases in gingerly ­– partly so he doesn’t tear the sides of the pool and partly because it’s a shock to the core.

“What, where is everyone? No one else is coming in?” Reijnen asks as his teammates begin to head back to the hotel just across the street. 

Writ

He then starts discussing the Corkscrew descent, a legendary ride amongst the growing peloton of riders in South Australia.

“That was intense,” he says. “I didn’t enjoy that one bit.”

The average speed of the peloton on the descent from atop Corkscrew was 104.9km per hour. At that speed, you’re tightening your grip and adjusting your posture... in a car. These guys are doing it on two wheels, the wind ripping through their hair and the corners approaching rapidly.

When Dutch cyclist Boy Van Poppel returns to the village, he, like everyone else, hits the scales to record his post-race weight.

“You’re looking good,” Green says as he scribbles down Poppel’s weight.

“We (get them on the scales) to check their pre and post hydration status. We look at how much weight they have lost on the stage just through sweating, and we try to get that replaced as soon as we can and most certainly before bed,” says Green.

Van Poppel’s heart rate drops from around 90 to 60 bpm as soon as he enters the ice bath. Lowering the heart rate and making sure each cyclist is relaxed is an essential part of recovery.

Green says potential weight loss over an entire stage is dependant on a lot of factors.

“It can vary greatly between individuals and even between days. Some riders will be able to hydrate more than others and return pretty balanced, whereas others might be 3.5kg down on where they started.”

In hot and humid conditions, such as found in South Australia during the 2016 Tour Down Under, the riders are likely to lose 2.5L in perspiration every hour. In a three and a half hour race, that’s around a total of 8.5L of water loss.

Green says they’ll drink as much as they can while riding, which is usually around 1 litre per hour, but even that won’t balance it out.

“Drinking one litre per hour can still leave you three to four litres down post race, so it’s important we get their weight pre and post race to get the rehydration right,” he says.

Sure, people have died from drinking too much water in a short time but those people were certainly not elite athletes riding hundreds of kilometres in searing heat.

So do the elite athletes competing in the hot South Australian sun at the Tour Down Under ever hit the limit of what is humanly possible?

“Probably not,” says Green, “Your body is able to rehydrate pretty quickly with fluid, if anything, it’s more limited in terms of the amount of carbohydrates and electrolytes that can actually be absorbed from supplements. Our supplements are purposely watered down so it doesn’t have a huge impact on their bodies.”

For us average, non-elite cyclist folk, to consume 1L of water per hour would probably find us making trips to the bathroom more frequently. But is that due to something colloquially known as “breaking the seal”? And do the cyclists experience that constant need to relieve themselves when drinking that much water?

“Breaking the seal definitely exists,” says Green. “When you drink a lot, your bladder fills up gradually and when you ‘break the seal’ your body, which is suddenly holding all this liquid, begins to continually fill up and it tricks you into thinking there’s more than what there actually is.”

Riders who need to relieve themselves, they put their hand up and they stop by the side of the road. It’s a simple solution to a natural urge, and one that the riders engage regularly.

Ice-baths are, in Green’s eyes, imperative for short-term recovery. However when it comes to post-tour recovery, it takes more than just ice to set the riders right.

“At the end we look at getting the hormone levels balanced, but the most important aspect of recovery is physical down time and a regaining a regular sleeping pattern,” says Green.

A regular sleeping pattern? Obviously we asked what mischief the riders get up to every night on tour.

“I refrain from calling myself the ‘Team Dad’ because I don’t want to be that guy,” says Green, adding that the riders don’t have a set time to sleep, but they do have a meeting time in the morning.

“That’s an 8am breakfast call. So as long as they’re then, that’s fine with me. A bedtime story is not out of the question though,” jokes Green.

Sh*t mechanics say: sights and sounds from the Tour Down Under service course.

Author James Raison.Photos: Chris Komorek, EcoCadd

I talked baby wipes, infinite cassettes, and dishwashing detergent with the Tour Down Under mechanics at the cycling village that springs up in the middle of Adelaide, South Australia.

“I’ve never worn out a cassette.”

Mechanic “Brownie” has my undivided attention as he scrubs down one of Katusha’s gorgeous Canyon bikes, its rider Tiago Machado hovers nearby.

You’ve never worn out a cassette Brownie?

“Nope. I have 3 chains. Every Friday I change the chain. I take it off, clean it, and put on one of the others, and I’ve never worn out a cassette.”

Brownie’s making a big claim, but if there’s no friction, it could last a long time. Could it last forever?

   
  
 
  
    
  
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   “John working hard on the Lotto-Soudal bikes”

“John working hard on the Lotto-Soudal bikes”

I wander down the line of mechanics, past hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of pro bikes. I stop and chat to “Nashy,” who’s cleaning some strikingly green Cannondales, to get his thoughts on Brownie’s bold claim.

“Ahhhh Brownie!” he shouts down the line, “you don’t wear out your gears because you don’t do enough kays (kilometres) mate!”

I love the service course.

Mechanics furiously scrubbing, de-greasing, spinning frames on their service stands, standing in soapy mud, and always shouting jovially to each other. 

   
  
 
  
    
  
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    “Machado makes sure Brownie doesn’t miss a spot”

“Machado makes sure Brownie doesn’t miss a spot”

The rapid clicking of gears, clanging of freewheel ratchets as they engage, and the explosive noise of air compressors drying the bikes inside the tents.

You see things here you won’t see anywhere else.

Earlier I saw riders stream back in from the end of today’s stage, a hot and dusty outing in the South Australian sun. They’re wearing backpacks, gilets in the summer heat, some have torn kits from crashing. They shove each other playfully, pretend to run into their mechanics, pick up the hoses and spray their team assistants, and dive into tubs of pasta covered with grated cheese.

Because teams usually bring one or two mechanics from home and then draft in locals to save some costs there is a melting pot of accents and languages.

I carefully pick my way through the carbon jungle to John, Lotto-Soudal’s Adelaide-born mechanic and ask for his pro tip

“Baby wipes,” he says. Baby wipes? “Yep, baby wipes.”

John points to his immaculate Cipollini RB1K sitting nearby, as Adam Hansen’s Ridley sits on his service stand.

“I use baby wipes on everything, frame, drivetrain, wheels. After every ride I hold a baby wipe over the chain and just turn the cranks.”

What’s John’s preferred baby wipe?

“Johnson & Johnson” he answers quickly, “I dunno, I think it’s the oils in it.”

I wander over and inspect his bike. Story checks out: gleaming. I make a note for next time I go shopping.

Alex at Giant-Alpecin ponders my request for a pro tip carefully, surprised that a journalist is even in the filthy service course.

“Just the regular stuff, really” he shrugs. Behind him I spot the scoop I’ve been looking for: Fairy dishwashing liquid.

There has been an explosion in bike cleaning products over recent years, but the pro peloton runs on ordinary dishwashing detergent. Bottles of green and yellow Fairy are at every cleaning station. I wander back to Alex. Surely dishwashing detergent isn’t good for bikes?

“It’s fine. We just wash it down with water afterwards. No worries.”

The answer was in our kitchens all along.

I notice Francaise Des Jeux (FDJ) mechanic, Nick, standing idle by a rack conspicuously empty of Lapierres.

Nick has a hard job, FDJ have that most oh-so-pro touch on their bikes: white bar tape. How does he keep them looking new every day?

“Morgan blue chain cleaner in a bit of water. Then you just use a sponge. A clean sponge obviously!”

Great tip. I’m sticking with black tape though, ain’t no-one got time for that.

I run Brownie’s claim by Nick. He coughs into his hand with a clearly audible “bullshit!”

If you are ever lucky enough to go behind the scenes at a bike race, spend some time in the service course. Have a chat to the mechanics too. Those clean, shiny bikes, gleaming kits, and silent drivetrains are all thanks to their hard work. As they say, a clean bike is a fast bike.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to stock up on Fairy and baby wipes.

THANK YOU from the SD TEAM

 

It’s two wins in three stages for Orica GreenEdge at the Tour Down Under

James Raison from the Tour Down Under reports back to us the Stage 3.

   
  
 
  
    
  
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   Orica GreeEdge rider Simon Gerrans(right) just beats BMC’s Rohan Dennis to the finish line

Orica GreeEdge rider Simon Gerrans(right) just beats BMC’s Rohan Dennis to the finish line

Simon Gerrans (Orica GreenEdge) out-sprinted defending champ Rohan Dennis (BMC), and unheralded Canadian Michael Woods (Cannondale Pro Cycling) to take the Ochre leaders jersey.

Tour Down Under (TDU) Stage 3 wound from the beachside suburb of Glenelg, 12 km west of the CBD, into the hills south of Adelaide, winding northeast to the critical Corkscrew Road climb, before a flying downhill finish into the suburb of Campbelltown.

Laurens De Vreese (Astana) was the first to jump, the Belgian riding off the field solo as race neutral distance ended.

After the race he was not fazed by a long solo day.

“It’s better to go on the attack than do nothing,” he said.

Race leader McCarthy’s Tinkoff squad took pace making responsibility early.

   
  
 
  
    
  
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   Fans at the Glenelg beach race start

Fans at the Glenelg beach race start

Intermediate sprint point 1 was taken by De Vreese, JJ Lobato (Movistar) second, and race leader McCarthy taking a single bonus second in third.

The bunch set an unusually sedate pace for the normally “full gas” TDU, the looming Corkscrew Road, an icon amongst cyclists in South Australia, seemingly discouraged a hot pace.

Sprint point 2 was again taken be De Vreese whose advantage had grown to 4 minutes. Behind him, Tinkoff and Orica GreenEdge led out their men for the remaining sprint points and bonus seconds, with Caleb Ewan (Orica GreenEdge) second, and race leader McCarthy third again. 

   
  
 
  
    
  
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     The Lampre –Merida team climbs past vineyards at McLaren flat

The Lampre –Merida team climbs past vineyards at McLaren flat

Team trains started to form with 30km to go and the pace lifted as the road plunged down. The bunch then swallowed De Vreese 21km out.

“I felt like we really had to take our lives into our hands,” said race winner Gerrans about the descent.

A crash on the infamous Gorge Road, at 18km to go, split the field. It was a bleak roadside scene with riders Julien Arredondo (Trek-Segafredo), Tyler Farrar (Dimension Data), Koen De Kort (Giant-Alpecin), and Marcus Burghardt (BMC) sprawled on the side of the road.

McCarthy’s Tinkoff team masterfully positioned him at the front of the race and took the crucial turn onto Corkscrew Road, followed by Sky and Orica GreenEdge. Lotto NL Jumbo taking over as the gradient pitched up.

   
  
 
  
    
  
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   The peloton climbing on the last 30 kms of the day

The peloton climbing on the last 30 kms of the day

McCarthy took control as the gradient went over 10 percent. A flurry of attacks followed from Richie Porte (BMC), then Gerrans, then Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r).

Emerging from the chaos was Porte, Sergio Henao (Sky), Michael Woods (Cannondale Pro Cycling), and Pozzovivo.

Woods’ next surge would only be matched by Henao. The Colombian climber rounded Woods and took the KOM points. The two leaders were soon reeled in by the chasers.

The following descent down Montacute Road averaged 105km/h according to the broadcast. Averaged.

The descent was like watching a cagey boxing match. Riders sparred with each other, but no-one landed a decisive blow to gap the rest.

Ruben Fernandez (Movistar) led the charge through the final corner and opened the downhill sprint. Dennis countered, gaining a small advantage but Gerrans desperately hunted his countryman down, beating him to the line with an epic bike throw. Woods crossed the line third and race leader McCarthy fourth.

   
  
 
  
    
  
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   BMC rider Rohan Dennis on the front of the peloton

BMC rider Rohan Dennis on the front of the peloton

Gerrans called it a “super tough day on the Corkscrew”.

“My teammates set me up perfectly,” he said.

McCarthy may have lost the jersey but vowed “I’m gonna keep going for it as hard as I can.” He swaps the overall leader’s jersey for the young rider’s jersey.

Henao has staked his claim as team leader and marked the Willunga Hill stage on Saturday as his next goal.

“I will try to take victory there,” he said.

An elated Woods said it was a thrill to be riding the race he’d seen on TV.

“I’ve always watched the Tour Down Under on TV, and heard Phil Liggett calling the races, and now I am doing it myself,” he said. “It’s a dream come true.”
Stage 4 of the TDU runs from the inner suburb of Norwood, south across the Fleurieu Peninsula to the finishing point after 130km in seaside town Victor Harbor, 80km south of Adelaide. 

   
  
 
  
    
  
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     Jay McCarthy Tinkoff wears the Europcar Young Riders Jersey

Jay McCarthy Tinkoff wears the Europcar Young Riders Jersey

THANK YOU JAMES.

SD TEAM