How one man and his team changed a whole sports outlook on fuelling

News Written by Jacob Hennessy

Spoiler alert, Chris Froome won stage 19 of the Giro d'Italia.. 4 years ago. A Lot has changed in the sport since then, but you will be hard pushed to find another ride that matches the epicness and significance of this stage.

Way back in good ol' 2018 when Corona was just a naff beer, Chris began the stage 3:22 down on Yates and 2:54 down on Tom Dumoulin. By the days end he would go on to lead the race by 40 seconds from Dumoulin, with Thibaut Pinot third at 4:17 

Terrifyingly both he and the team planned his attack in advance of stage 19 on the Col d'Finestere with 80km to go attempting to force a select group and distance his rivals. Yates the leader of the race, having his most successful tour at the time, was found suffering early on in the stage and was distanced at the lower slopes of the decisive climb. Whatever happened next, there would be a new leader.

Talking with his coach Tim Kerrison in the morning of Froome had stated 'I'm feeling good, I'm gonna try something' a full on do or die move, taking massive risks on the descent and nailing the climbs to completely turn the race upside down. 

After the smoke had cleared and people were really able to soak in what Chris had done, the big question, How?

What was new about this win was that, it turns out, not only did they orchestrate the attack prior to the stage, they implemented a sophisticated nutrition plan with staff placed all along the course ensuring Chris was able to stay on top of his fuelling during his monumental effort, whilst also carrying the minimum amount of excess weight.

This, in fairness, was not something unusual for Team Sky. They would often place staff along the course to benefit the team, ignoring designated feed zones in order to make the competition suffer. However, this stage they placed individuals along the route with specific products to give Chris the most optimal fuelling throughout.

Chris' breakfast on the morning included 400g of rice, an omelette of three whites and one yolk, and four pancakes with jam.

They then broke down the stage into 7 segments and gave Chris a specific carbohydrate intake to consume during each segment, with a total consumption of 1073g of carbs (around 70 slices of bread. Not sure if slices of bread are an accurate metric but that is a lot of carbs).

The team had actually calculated, using previous data on Chris, what he needed exactly to perform what he was attempting and gave him power goals for each section. This has since become more or less the norm with it left less to chance and often an extra set of stem notes telling riders exactly what to take and when. Made even easier now thanks to the use of products such as Supersapiens helping athletes monitor blood glucose levels.

Cycling has always been a traditional sport and everyone has heard the phrase 'eating is cheating' but with what Team Sky were able to do on this day, fuelling would never be looked at the same again. With more teams nowadays doing what's best for the team and not what is the norm it is entering a new era of human performance.

Jacob Hennessy

Back to all articles