RideLondon offers the exciting opportunity to cover 100 miles of closed roads through the city and in the Surrey countryside. The event takes place this weekend and we’ve worked with nutrition expert from OTE Sports Annie Simpson, in partnership with Ribble Cycles, to bring you a guide for fuelling your way through the day.
The 100 mile ride comprises of plenty of rolling Surrey roads, as well as some fairly tough climbs along the way. However, it also has some long flat sections where you’ll enjoy whizzing along closed roads with thousands of other riders.
Amongst all the excitement, it can be easy to forget to top up the fuel tanks. Until it’s too late and you feel the oncoming ‘bonk’. It’s best to avoid this situation by eating little and often.
Annie tells us: “Your body burns through fat and carbohydrates during exercise, but when the intensity rises (for example over a climb) it feeds on predominantly carbohydrates. Since you can only store a limited amount of carbohydrate energy, you need to keep nibbling as you ride to maintain good levels of energy."
The day before the ride
You don’t need to eat too differently on day before the ride. However, it is recommended that you increase your carbohydrate intake slightly. Annie suggests you aim to make up 50 per cent of each plate with carbohydrates, whilst taking it easy in terms of bike riding to give your legs a chance to rest up.
She adds: “The low activity and the high carbohydrate content of each meal will mean you will load your body’s carbohydrate stores without having to eat huge amounts. Think quality of food, not quantity."
Hydration is important, too. Being dehydrated by just 2 per cent can affect your performance on the bike. Annie says: “Over the day before the event, consider your hydration status too. The best way to do this is to check your urine: aim for a light straw colour. Sip little and often on an electrolyte drink such as OTE Hydro Tabs during the days before."
Breakfast on RideLondon day
Some waves at RideLondon start very early – which might make breakfast difficult. However, it really is a good idea to try to get something down you. Annie says: “We would advise where possible to get up with enough time to get a proper breakfast before the start. Consuming a meal three hours before an event is optimal, but if your start time is 6am this may not be realistic."
She adds: “An ideal scenario would be a large bowl of porridge with a chopped banana and a drizzle of honey consumed three hours before, but the closer you consume breakfast to your event start, the smaller the portion should be. If you really do struggle to eat anything substantial before the start, then a huge emphasis needs to be placed on fuelling properly during the event, starting from mile one."
If you’re staying in a hotel – do make sure that breakfast is being served early ahead of the event. If not, take your own!
Eating and drinking your way through RideLondon
There are four main hubs along the RideLondon route, with another nine additional drink stops along the way. The hubs contain sports nutrition products for along the route, but it is often worth checking whether your stomach agrees with the available products and flavours, you don’t want to have barrier to fuelling on the day.
Annie and the OTE Sports team have devised a plan based on a rider completing the route at around 15 miles per hour, taking 6.5 hours. The aim is to take on 60g of carbs per hour. The food is all taken on at the key ‘hubs’ but it’s a good idea to stop at drinks stops if it’s a hot day and you need extra hydration.
Start with two 500ml bottles of energy drink containing 40g of carbohydrates each.
In your back pocket pack keep two energy bars and one energy gel - this should be your emergency gel for if you really need it.
The first feed hub should take just under two hours to reach, so aim to consume both bottles and bars during this time ready to refill at feed one.
Feed 1: Mile 26 - Hampton Court Palace
Fill up your two 500ml bottles with energy drink and grab an energy bar and energy gel.
Again, aim to consume both bottles and the energy bar evenly over the next 22 miles. The next feed station is at the top of a hill, so try consuming the gel at around mile 42-43 as a boost for the climb.
Feed 2: Mile 48 - Newlands Corner
The next section of the sportive is the longest and also takes you over the two biggest climbs on route, Leith Hill and Box Hill. This will make it harder to eat solid food along the way so it’s advisable to make the switch to using energy drink and energy gels.
Fill your bottles with energy drink and collect three energy gels, and have an energy bar just before you set off from the feed. Sip the energy drink little and often again, and aim to consume a gel every 40 minutes.
If you find you are starting to tire or it is particularly hot, stop at Westcott drink stop at mile 62 for some extra fluid.
Feed 3: Mile 75 - Leatherhead
Three-quarters of the way through and all the major climbs are over. You should arrive at this feed again needing to fill the bottles with drink.
Go for one energy drink and one water this time and pick up a bar and a gel.
It is only ten miles until the next feed station but you will no doubt be feeling the last 75 miles in your legs. Keep fuelling until the very end and again consume the drink and food over the next ten miles, looking to consume something every 30 minutes.
Feed 4: Mile 85 - Kingston-upon-Thames
The last feed is 15 miles and around an hour of riding from the end. Fill your two bottles and stay on top of hydration, especially if you have a long drive home after the event (dehydration can affect concentration), and at this point if you can get your hands on some caffeine gels then this will act as a much needed boost for the final leg.
Caffeine lowers your perceived exertion and can give a notable lift when feeling fatigued, so have this as you leave the feed and have one last gel as a spare to consume 30 minutes later if you need it for that final push into central London.
Recovering after RideLondon
With the ride complete, you probably just want to collapse in a heap and soak up the virtuous rays of having completed an incredible ride.
However, taking on the right food now will mean you'll feel better in the coming hours and days as your recovery will be kickstarted.
Annie says: "Within 30 minutes of the finish, aim to consume a recovery drink or snack containing both protein and carbohydrates. Recovery shakes are perfect for this as they are convenient and easy to consume, and could really help your legs to return to normal."
We've got a few options for you that will help you to top up your protein and carb levels: