A Pro Cyclist Talks About His Team’s Road Food Transformation
By pro cyclist Julian Kyer courtesy of SkratchLabs.com
Last time I checked in with the Skratch Labs blog, I had suffered a minor meltdown in Las Vegas on my way to Redlands, and vowed to never again be subjected to the disaster known as the “average American meal” as I traveled from race to race. After I got back home, Allen decided I needed a few more items for my Travel Kitchen, so we went to procure supplies for an upgrade to the Skratch Labs Mini Kitchen.
The Mini Kitchen is the result of a real shift in the way athletes care for their nutrition needs. It has always amazed me that people will spend thousands upon thousands of dollars on bikes and power meters only to shovel garbage down their throats right before a race or skimp on the quality of the food they eat.
Skratch Labs and The Feed Zone Cookbook are both founded on the premise that conventional wisdom isn’t very wise, and that simple solutions are often better than their pseudoscientific counterparts. In the same way that there is no advanced technology behind an ice-sock on a hot day, the performance gains to be had by avoiding fast food on the road can easy and simple. It’s a cheap and simple insurance policy that means you will have familiar food at races or wherever your travels take you.
My Mini Kitchen was also contagious. After the upgrade to the equipment, I started cooking for my team at races. It became a way for me to relax; I could both control what we were eating, and it took my mind off the race by giving me a task to complete.
What I didn’t really expect was for my new way of thinking about food to to start affecting the other riders on the team. I thought I was the picky, weird guy on the team who would always shoot down restaurant options, but I started to notice the others catching on. When I showed up to Tour of the Battenkill, I discovered that one teammate had brought his own rice cooker in case I hadn’t brought mine. As we coordinated to drive to Tour of the Gila, the only question he asked me was whether he needed to bring his cooker or if mine was enough. An early riser on the team learned how I make oatmeal in the cooker so that he could start a massive batch for the team each day. I’m currently guest riding for a team at Tour de Beauce, and I expected raised eyebrows when I said I brought a rice cooker, but after I gave a few guys honey and almond butter rice cakes, they all thought it was great.
So what are the essentials?
My crucial tools are pretty limited, but most of my races have host housing, so that makes things considerably easier. Here’s what I bring:
- 6-cup rice cooker (3 cups is okay for 1-2 people)
- Rice spatula
- Brownie pan for forming rice cakes
- A roll of paper foil or Martha Wrap
- Bag of sushi or calrose rice
- Bag of oats
- Nut butter
- Dried fruit
Those are the essentials, but for longer trips, I’ll want the ability to make more Feed Zone Cookbook recipes, so I’ll bring an electric wok or frying pan or a small George Foreman grill. With these, I can make just about anything I’d need for workouts or racing.
My new Mini Kitchen has already paid itself off in the first two days of Beauce. No lunch after the race? No problem. Only gels to eat? Not now, I have rice cakes. Again, I expected to be the strange foreign guy on the team, but everyone seems to agree with the value I put on these tools. Now if only teams will get with the program!
You can get with the program, too. Check out The Feed Zone Cookbook for 150 athlete-friendly recipes that are simple, delicious, and easy to make (even while travelling!). The book has a guide to The Athlete’s Kitchen on p. 26 that lists the essential ingredients, small appliances, and a few other items to help you cook real foods at home or away.
Julian Kyer is a professional cyclist riding for BISSELL Pro Cycling. He recently placed second at a stage of the Redlands Bicycle Classic. You can follow him on Twitter, friend him on Facebook, and check out his race results at USA Cycling.