Two years ago Tom Stewart was a student who did some mountain biking. Now this quiet young rider is shaping up to be the next big thing in British road racing
Tom Stewart is the latest in a long line of top road racers from Doncaster and the surrounding area. He trains with the Downing brothers and Graham Briggs on roads that have seen generations of talent, going right back to Tom Simpson and even further to the days of black alpaca-clad time triallists.
Stewart’s rise has been meteoric. He only had his first full road season in 2012. Then he won the 2013 Maureen Bain Memorial, riding away from some of the best British-based pros and outsprinting Matt Cronshaw. He’s stayed at the front in other big races, leading the Premier Calendar at one point before finishing second overall. That was when he was with Raleigh; this year, he rides for Madison-Genesis.
What’s more important, nutrition or training?
TS: I guess if you never trained but ate well, you’d still be slow. If you neglected nutrition but trained well, you could still do OK. But nutrition is still important. Being a cyclist is a lifestyle choice. There are no quick fixes, magic tricks or shortcuts. Doing well comes from an accumulation of several things, and training and nutrition are both vital.
What’s your favourite pre-ride meal and why?
TS: I normally have porridge, muesli or a smoothie of some sort. Occasionally I’ll make the effort to have eggs, either poached or scrambled. I like to introduce some variety through the week, but on race day I’ll stick with porridge or muesli with a banana. I know where I stand with that, and how far I can go on it.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given and who gave it to you?
TS: Unfortunately, no one thing in particular springs to mind as ‘the best’. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by people who provide a wealth of knowledge and experience for me to tap into. I try to take little bits of advice from each person in a way that suits me.
When it comes to nutrition, what do amateurs tend to get wrong?
TS: Some tend to be attracted to a quick fix. People might read that someone once did a fasted ride or that some pro somewhere lives off a ‘wonder food’. That advice is always taken out of context and is misleading. After all, they say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and they say so for a reason. I know it’s obvious, but amateurs shouldn’t underestimate the importance of a healthy and balanced diet. Cycling is very tough on the body and you should help it along by eating properly.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known when starting out?
TS: I wish I’d understood the importance of rest and recovery and how to do it properly. Doing nothing is an art, and it doesn’t come naturally to some.
What’s your favourite ‘naughty’ food?
TS: I do love a nice bit of cake at the cafe. Other than that, I’ll occasionally treat myself to good old fish and chips — there is a cracking place in
Tell us about a time when you got your nutrition wrong.
TS: When I used to go on long Sunday club runs with Doncaster Wheelers, my primitive nutrition plan consisted of a plate of pasta on Saturday night and a couple of Nutri-Grain bars on the ride. Needless to say, I used to bonk spectacularly on a regular basis.
Do you prefer real food or supplements?
TS: Probably more real food in training, and more supplements when racing.
What’s the key to always improving?
TS: Keep learning but never forget the basics. When it comes to your training and nutrition, it’s important to balance being open-minded with sticking to what you know works.
What are the three most important things you have learned from participating in this sport?
TS: Firstly, never forget you are actually supposed to be enjoying training and racing. Take time to look up and around you. It is a beautiful sport. Don’t become a slave to it. In terms of racing, new riders should aim to make life easier for themselves by not making enemies. Racing is far too hard already. Absolutely take the fight to them, but do it with panache. And lastly, spend good money on footwear and tyres.