What to eat when you're 14,000km from home...


As far as sports that come with associated ‘food guilt’, cycling is right at the top of the tree. A lot of mates, who don’t ride, also ask “what do you eat? Surely you can eat whatever you please”. If only…Being away from home, away from the staple ‘lean eating’ foods and without trusty home utensils (I miss my slow cooker, as 1960s as that might sound) cooking can be a bit of a challenge. That’s not to say our kitchen here is not impressively kitted out, but it’s the small things like reaching for the garlic crusher. Only to find there is none. Then remember you don’t have a stash of garlic bulbs. And dinner goes downhill from there (as my chances of a vampire attack also increase exponentially). Or, like team mate Masterchef Matty Lane found, you don’t even need to missing ingredients for dinner to go pear shaped…

That’s the entire contents of the salt shaker in his pan, in case it’s hard to make out why it looks like it’s snowing in the kitchen. Don’t ask.
 
Also, there’s the tricky situation of identifying what exactly it was you bought. What looked like salami…

was in fact horse. Of course you realise this after you fire up Google Translate with the empty package, but hay (see what I did there) YOLO right?
 
Things also taste different. Handy rule of thumb I now run with is that if it was made from or is a product of an animal, chances are it’s going to taste different. So tempting as it is to incorporate some of Belgium’s fine take-away cuisine in to the regular diet

reality is that getting creative in the kitchen, with what you have at your command, needs to happen.
 
However, what you can create with simply a pot, a good sized frying pan and (luckily) a rice cooker is terrific. It helps too when you have team mates (not Matty) who are whizzes in the kitchen. I’ve unashamedly stolen Saxon’s ‘lentil bolognaise’. With your typical bolognaise base, replace the meat with three 425g cans of one (or a mix) of lentils, chick peas, kidney beans or butter beans. Make it more Mexican by mashing the lentils and adding paprika and some chilli. Instantly you have an easy recipe that is just as good in burritos with sour cream as it is with pasta, with ingredients any supermarket will stock and ticks all the right nutrition boxes.

Another essential is rice. Yes, I realise Asia called and wants its staple grain back. But as far as a versatile source of carbohydrate that is not too refined, it’s perfect. Rice cakes, to snack on while riding, are a mainstay for nearly every rider on the team. Being a cinnamon addict I’m also a big fan of home-made rice pudding – the recipe from SBS is perfect. Combine the pudding with some tinned fruit and natural yogurt and you have a perfect combination of carbs, fat and protein for your post-ride recovery. Rice cake recipes are numerous and having a play with ingredients to find what works is all part of the fun. What I’ve found though is that medium grain in a 1 part rice: 1.5 parts water combination (in a rice cooker) is perfect consistency. And that fried bacon and egg, parmesan and soya sauce is a mind-blowing savoury combination.

Finally, in what is last but normally comes first, breakfast. In my true 1960’s mode, I still love porridge as my first meal of the day (probably due to being able to drown it in cinnamon or nutmeg). Soaking the oats overnight is key, as is pairing it with a black coffee from the Aeropress – which is another travelling ‘must have’ if you value decent coffee.

The only difference being if I have a pre-breakfast spin or not. This can vary from half an hour on the ergo to actually heading out for my ride and starting to eat on the bike after half an hour or so. It’s important these rides aren’t the local bunchie smash-fest. Otherwise you might find yourself hitting the proverbial ‘wall’, getting piped in front of all your mates and missing brews afterwards. Not ideal.
 
I’ve also been asked do I keep a track of my food. Now none of what follows (nor what preceded) is gospel, only what works for me – based off the knowledge of those a lot more knowledgeable in nutrition than I am. I use an app called MyNetDiary

and on face value it would look like calorie counting. In fact, that’s what the app is based around. Only I use it to keep a track of my daily macro nutrients (carbohydrates, fats and protein) as well as keeping myself accountable for my intake. I never ate ‘bad’ food, only my portion sizes were not appropriate. It’s also not a daily exercise – way too much of a chore. I also make sure there’s one ‘cheat’ day per week. Eat what I please, no guilt. And it’s great! Everyone will differ, but this is what works for me.
 
As far as the fractured elbow goes, it’s healing. Slowly. I’m back on the road, great success. However still need a hand with harder tasks, like opening glass jars…My solo training camp in France begins on Wednesday, with the plan to come back from two weeks in the Alps with a healed radius and legs ready for four weeks of racing. Meantime, the boys are absolutely stomping. Jayden and Craig both with a 2nd place in the two interclubs - which are a harder,teams, race (as opposed to the individual racing of regular 1.12B kermesse). Super inspiring and a huge motivator to make sure I'm back out there with them as soon as I can. You can follow all the results, news and shots of us putting our Bianchi Sempre's through their paces on our Facebook page.
Otherwise, until the next blog from France), happy cooking.