It doesn’t matter if you’re Chris Froome or a domestique doing the unglorious work supporting the stars, there’s one danger that treats every Tour cyclist the same.
Boredom. With their food, that is. Depending on the demands of the stage, the cyclists peddling their way through the Tour de France, or any other major stage race, can need to eat anywhere from 5000 to 8000 calories a day (to put that into perspective, a 25-year-old male in a reasonably sedentary job could have a daily energy requirement of around 11,100 kj, or 2600 calories). “They have to eat an enormous amount of food,” writes Team Sky chef Henrik Orre in his new book. “It’s not uncommon that they get really bored with eating, something that makes my job even more important.”
So what do you feed a ravenous horde who need to eat right and stay light?
In Vélochef, Orre, who has been with Team Sky since 2013, shares recipes for “pre vélo”, “vélo” and “après vélo” – basically, breakfast; food you can use while riding; and post-race and party food. He makes the point in the book that he’s a chef, not a nutritionist, but in planning what he serves up, he works closely with Team Sky nutritionist Nigel Mitchell. When SBS grabbed a few minutes of Orre’s time amid his busy prep for this year’s race, he explained how things work over the course of a season. “He sits down with each individual rider through the whole season and talks through their demands and needs. Then after that, we have a chat to see if we need to change anything. I can basically put his thoughts on a plate!”
Does Orre have to do anything special for the team star Chris Froome?
“I don’t modify the food especially for Chris,” Orre tells SBS. “All our meals are served in buffet form. So therefore everyone should be able to find what they need on each stage on this buffet. Chris knows his body very well, and knows how much he needs to eat and when.”
Well, that all sounds quite easy. So no requests from team members for him to make or find anything unusual?
“I can´t remember any episodes of weird food requests. It’s often more personal things like a toothbrush or a razor! No strange food!”
So what does he serve up?
In Vélochef, Orre shares many of the recipes he has made for stars such as Froome, Bradley Wiggins and Edvald Boasson Hagen. There’s a profile of Boasson Hagen in the book: “a guy who doesn’t create a lot of fuss in spite of his position in the cycling world”, Orre writes. And a keen cook, apparently: “His kitchen is equipped with top of the range stuff. He’s also becoming a good amateur chef who is always searching for new dishes and recipes. Edvald is passionate about coffee and spends a lot of time in front of the espresso machine.” Okay, so the latter isn’t such a surprise, given the almost universal love affair between cyclists and coffee, but hearing that Boasson Hagen doesn’t have normal sports drinks in his bottle but rather a specially formulated drink “based on fish meal and lemon” is less predictable. The keen cook shares several recipes in the book, including a roast chicken with vegetables and a mushroom risotto.
Dotted throughout the book are other little extras – meals made with Emma Johansson (needs to eat every three hours) and Richie Porte (loves almond butter); a visit to bicycle frame factory Passoni; Orre’s thoughts on meat quality – but the book is mostly made up of Orre’s recipes.
Breakfast ideas range from baked porridge and rye scones to a banana and avocado smoothie. For fuelling during a ride there are budget-friendly muesli bars, sweet and savoury rice bars and raw date and coconut bars (“you’ll save money,” says Orre, “each recipe gives about twenty bars and costs much less than commercial bars from the sports shop), as well as a buckwheat waffle with banana and almond filling, chocolate and pistachio-studded banana bread and a lemon and date “lemonade”. Après Vélo includes dishes for weekday dinners after a long training session and party food: mussels in beer with roasted potatoes, lasagne (“my signature dish”) and a spicy chicken casserole, which Orre recommends making in advance, so that after a workout, you can just heat and eat.
Which ones will Team Sky be eating during the Tour De France?
“I will for sure do both of the smoothies from Vélochef. The rice cakes are made every day to feed the riders on the bike. And also the hot chicken casserole is very popular,” Orre tells SBS. And the lasagne, which apparently he makes at least one during every competition.
It sounds quite glamorous – driving around Europe, serving up good food to hungry cyclists. Oh hang on, did you say you do 17-hour days?
During the Tour, Orre gets up around 6am every day. “I’m usually down in the kitchen at 7 in the morning and the boys come down around 8am. Then breakfast takes around about an hour before the boys are finished and leave,” he explains when we ask how long his days are. “Since we serve all our meals in our own kitchen and restaurant truck we start packing down straight after the boys are gone. Then we need to pack down the truck to make it ready for the transfer to the next hotel.
“There is usually between 1-3 hours of driving every day! On the way I will stop to do some shopping for produce. Then we arrive to the hotel, we start to set up the truck again. Unpack all the shopping into the kitchen fridges, and then I start cook. Dinner will usually be served around 9 in the evening. And then we need to clean up and set up the table for breakfast. We are usually finished around 11.
“So basically I work from 7 in the morning until 11 at the night. Yes, it's long days, but happy cyclists makes it all worth it.”
COOK THE BOOK
The Tour De France runs from July 2. Get all the latest at Cycling Central.