SPORTS

Double attack on the Grand Tours

Equipe Enervit meets Gorka Prieto-Bellver

UAE_Team_Emirates_2024_750x1000

SPORTS

Double attack on the Grand Tours

Equipe Enervit meets Gorka Prieto-Bellver

Double attack on the Grand Tours:

Tadej Pogačar's Nutrition for the Giro and the Tour


Equipe Enervit meets Gorka Prieto-Bellver


Taking on both Giro d'Italia and Tour de France in the same year is a formidable challenge. Few cyclists aim for top results in both. Let's hear from Gorka Prieto-Bellver, the nutritionist for UAE Team Emirates, about how to maintain peak performance over eleven weeks.


Both Giro d’Italia and Tour de France last three weeks. From a nutritional standpoint, have you noticed any differences in energy expenditure between the two races?

We can't say one is necessarily more demanding than the other. Energy expenditure varies greatly depending on the route, weather, and competitors. For example, mountain stages require higher caloric intake than flat stages, but situations like breakaways can drastically change this. 
We also consider the overall level of riders in the race: at the Tour, all teams field their top athletes, which can lead to a higher race pace regardless of the route. On the other hand, Giro d'Italia has often more adverse weather conditions, like this year’s stage in Livigno, where energy expenditure increases due to thermoregulation.”

UAE Team Emirates 2024

As you mentioned, the weather can vary between these two races. How does the menu change based on weather conditions?

Generally, we face higher temperatures at the Tour. This can be problematic for riders who might have less appetite on certain days. To help them, we adjust the menu to ensure they get the right amounts of macronutrients. Not eating enough would be critical..

 

Can you give us some examples?

“Main courses like pasta, rice, meat, and fish stay quite standard. However, desserts change to fresher options for the Tour. For this year’s Tour, we developed new recipes like a mango mousse. For the Giro, we had a chocolate brownie, which is more suitable for colder weather”.


Do you test these recipes during training?

Absolutely, we test everything during our training camps. The camp's purpose is to fine-tune every detail for race days, especially for the grand tours.
It's during the December camp that we develop the menus for the competitive season. I discuss this with the chefs, who then creates dishes that meet my nutritional guidelines and are appealing to the team.


How do you determine portion sizes for the various dishes?

After each stage, I check each rider's energy expenditure and send them the recommended portions of various dishes via an app on their smartphones. Nothing is left to chance.”


Speaking of Tadej, after dominating the Giro, he’s also aiming for the Tour this year. How have you planned his nutrition for such a demanding schedule, concentrated in just eleven weeks? 

From the start, we planned to bring Tadej to Florence (this year’s Tour start location) at his peak form. This doesn’t mean we used the Giro as a 'trial run'. On the contrary, the Giro was a primary objective. From a dietary standpoint, we approached it step by step: first aiming to win the Giro, then assessing Tadej's condition to act accordingly.”


How was Tadej's condition at the end of the Giro?

His weight was the same as at the start. So, we are not 'chasing' any specific condition, except losing about one kilogram for the Tour. Everything is going as planned, which is to tackle the Tour at a slightly lower weight.”


Why does Tadej need to lose a kilogram?

The specified weight is optimal for a race that will be run in different climatic conditions compared to the Giro.”


What are the challenges of tackling two grand tours in such a short time?

I wouldn’t say there are specific challenges. The most delicate factor might be the athlete’s weight, which could drop too much, especially before the Tour.
That’s why we decided to approach the Giro at a slightly higher weight. Additionally, we mustn’t forget that in the five weeks between the two races, Tadej is training: this means facing eleven weeks of very high physical stress. And the season is far from over...”


Regarding the five weeks between the Giro and the Tour, how did you manage the team?

Usually, after a grand tour, I allow the athletes some freedom. Of course, I don’t want them to gain too much weight in the weeks post-race, but at the same time, I don’t expect them to follow a strict protocol, weighing every gram they eat.
I give them relative freedom to manage themselves and follow their 'sensations' for at least two or three weeks. Of course, with Tadej, it couldn’t be like this…”

Gorka Prieto-Bellver


What protocol did you follow with him?

I also gave him a break period, about a week, during which he also reduced his training. After the week of 'relaxation', we restarted at 100% towards the Grande Boucle.”


Aren’t you afraid that a strict program over all these weeks could stress Pogačar?

Tadej is very focused and motivated.
So, I’m not worried. In any case, after the recovery week, I spoke to him, asking if he felt ready to get back to full training. Of course, he said: 'Yes!'.
A little anecdote: on the first rest day of the Giro, during the classic training ride coffee break, he ate an ice cream. When he returned, he immediately informed me (smiles).”


Can you tell us more about the diet he is following these days?

As mentioned, we are not chasing a specific condition, since his weight and skinfold measurements after Giro d'Italia were good. In these weeks, we are focusing on keeping his gut trained to handle many carbohydrates during training. In practice, we are doing the now well-known 'training the gut' during the most intense and demanding training sessions.”


How many grams of carbohydrates are planned for the most intense workouts?

Approximately the same amount as during the race, but in some training sessions, we’ve reached 100-120 g/h.
We can do this thanks to the products developed for us by Enervit. We are very satisfied with this teamwork and the various products we use, such as the line created with the now well-known 2:1 ratio between glucose and fructose.
Testing new products is a process that never stops: this year, we are also trying some 'novelties' to maximize recovery. Many have noticed the famous dark drink that the guys consume at the end of each stage
…”


Regarding recovery, a key factor in grand tours, what strategies do you use to optimize recovery after stages and the most challenging workouts?

After significant exertion, it’s essential to replenish muscle glycogen as soon as possible. The ideal means for this purpose are high glycemic index carbohydrates, combined with proteins and electrolytes.
As you know, we are testing a new 'recovery mix' created by Enervit for us. Of course, we mustn’t forget the various meals that the riders consume in the hours after, on the bus or at the restaurant. The recovery shake remains standard for all riders, while meals vary according to the nutritional needs and preferences of each athlete
”.


How do you monitor the condition of the riders?

Weight and skinfold measurements. The latter allows us to get indications on the athlete’s body fat percentage. These are the two parameters we assess most frequently."


Do you have the athletes weigh themselves every day?

No, I don’t require them to weigh themselves every day. Weight fluctuates daily, but these short-term variations are not synonymous with body fat accumulation. I let the athlete choose the frequency of weighing themselves. However, at least once a week.
In general, when it comes to being competitive for many consecutive weeks, it’s necessary to identify a balance between planning and freedom to pursue the goal without subjecting the team to excessive stress. Exactly what we are doing
.”