March 2023, Articles

Communications and preparation key to fuelling track cyclists on the road

Track cycling champion Aaron Gate described the team’s performance on the track at the recent, all-important first Nations Cup in Jakarta as impressive and encouraging.

Off the track, HPSNZ Performance Nutritionist Katie Schofield described the experience as challenging with many learnings able to be taken forward to the second international competition in Egypt.

For Katie, the Jakarta experience was a steep learning curve and her greatest learning was that communication and preparation is essential to avoid the inevitable pitfalls of keeping the athletes appropriately fuelled before, during and after competition.

Dealing with challenges, thinking on your feet and being solution oriented are critical to the role of a travelling HPSNZ nutritionist, says Katie Schofield.

The first challenge the team faced was the standard of catering in the accommodation arranged by the hotel.

“Because we had limited control over the catering offered by the accommodation it was difficult to know what would be provided in terms of quality of food.

“It soon became apparent quality and variety were very different to what we experience here in New Zealand.  Every day we were offered the same food – chicken or fish, rice or pasta and eggs – and there was no vegetarian protein option for lunches and dinners.

“Eating at the team’s hotel also proved challenging in other ways.  There was a language barrier which meant communicating with hotel staff and chefs was difficult, meal times were set and weren’t aligned to the racing schedule and access to clean bottled water was very difficult.”

Katie says she and the support team were always problem solving.

“Take water for example, which is obviously critical for our cyclists’ hydration, even more so in a very hot and humid climate.  Water was provided at the velodrome on racing days, however on the first day, the water supply didn’t arrive on time.  We did not want them to drink tap water.

“There was a daily provision of 1.5 litres of bottled water per person which was provided on subsequent race days.  Knowing this was not enough for everyone, I did a daily water run to the supermarket to get sufficient water to keep 24 people – cyclists and support crew – hydrated.

“We even bought a rice cooker which we set up in the middle of the track so we were able to feed our cyclists between races.”

Katie has briefed the team travelling to Egypt on what she learned in Jakarta.

“We know the challenges in Egypt will be similar so our priority has been to ensure the team is better prepared.  We encouraged cyclists to take some of their favourite foods such as spreads, cereals and freeze dried meals with them and make sure what they take requires minimal cutlery and very few ingredients other than maybe milk and bottled water.”

Feeding our high performance cyclists on the road takes innovation, a number 8 fencing wire approach and a big dollop of commonsense, preparation and communication says Katie.

Trackside at the Jakarta velodrome