Generally, exercise lasting longer than 90 min of continuous work saps an athlete’s muscle glycogen stores. Fuel needs can be hard to judge in a road race, the intensity of the work may vary according to the tactics of the day and the terrain, but a good rule is to prepare for each individual race in which you wish to perform well by topping up muscle fuel stores during at least the 12 to 36 hr before the event.
The longer and more important the race, the better the fuelling should be. Opportunities for fuelling will vary depending on your program and goals. They may be few in a race series or stage race where events are scheduled every day, or when you are is continuing high-volume training right up to a race. Even when you are watching energy intake for weight-loss purposes, you should consider the benefits of better fuelling just before a race.
It also makes sense to make use of every hour between stages in a tour by starting to eat or drink carbohydrate as soon as is practical after the end of each stage. Chapters 4 and 5 provide strategies for fuelling up and refuelling.
Many cycling races start in mid-morning or afternoon, allowing rider’s time for a substantial carbohydrate-rich breakfast or brunch. Choose a pre-race meal based on your individual race nutrition plan, the practical opportunities provided by the schedule, and the lessons learned from previous races.
Stop to replenish these supplies. In races, feeding zones are set up where volunteer handlers or professional team soigneurs hand out drinks (and food) to their riders. In professional races, team cars also follow the riders, and it is the job of the team’s domestique riders to ferry extra bottles to the designated leaders.