At just 24 years old, Cannondale Pro Cycling Team rider Elia Viviani is already making a name for himself as a sprinter.

The winner of the first stage of the 2013 Tour of Britain talks to Cycling Weekly about his fuelling strategy for the tough final stage, where he clinched third place.

As this was a shorter stage and with it being so close to the end of the season, there was a sense of winding down after the race was over. Being in an unfamiliar country Viviani decided to play it safe with his food and kept many of his meals simple, with a purely functional perspective to his food choices. As he said: “I was literally just fuelling to get through the race.”

Breakfast: coffee and croissant

Surprisingly Viviani’s breakfast is quite small and simple for a cyclist during a stage race. He’s up for breakfast at 9am, but the stage doesn’t start until much later in the day. This is why he doesn’t eat much – just enough to fill his stomach before his main pre-race meal. As an Italian and a cyclist, a cappuccino was obviously vital to kick-start his day.

Pre-race meal: plain white pasta
Although a seemingly boring meal, plain pasta would fuel Viviani through the short 88km stage adequately. Pasta is both low in fat and has a low GI making it a great fuel for cyclists. The other bonus is that it’s high in complex carbohydrates.

These complex carbs give a slow release of energy throughout the race, which would be enough to sustain him throughout the two hours. Viviani’s decision to eat the pasta plain and without a sauce shows that this is literally nothing more than fuel for the race. Cutting out any extras also cuts the risk of an upset stomach before or during a high-intensity workout.


Viviani’s food intake before a short stage of the Tour of Britain

Two MultiPower gels
Viviani consumed just two gels during the day’s race: one with 50km till the finish and the second with 25km left. Riders often take on gels in the shorter circuit-style races, which are faster with more attacks. Gels are easy to consume and provide an immediate boost of energy when it’s needed most.

Dinner: steak and potatoes
For dinner Viviani and his team-mates enjoyed a meal out in a restaurant. As he puts it, there was “big meat” on the menu as a treat after a testing week-long stage race. Riders often avoid red meat during stage races, as it can be harder to digest.

Although rich in protein, the high levels of saturated fats are often deemed to outweigh the benefits of steak, so it’s not regarded as the best food for a racing cyclist. But as this was at the end of his race, with the end of the season edging closer, this indulgence was allowed.

Three bottles of water
Viviani only had one bottle of water on his bike during the race. This was due to it being a short stage and not too warm during the day. Riders try to take only the fluids that they really need to prevent carrying excess weight. Viviani ensured he was well hydrated by drinking a bottle of water before and after the race.

This article was first published in the October 24 issue of Cycling Weekly. Read Cycling Weekly magazine on the day of release where ever you are in the world International digital edition, UK digital edition. And if you like us, rate us!