Diary of a Performance Nutritionist

I'm Victoria Benford, a new Performance Nutritionist at Sport Wales Institute supporting Swim Wales and Welsh Cycling. In my first few weeks of work I was lucky enough to travel with the Welsh youth cyclists to the Youth Tour of Scotland 2019, and observe the action on a 4-day stage race with teams from across Britain.

Here's a diary of my experience, and information on what food the athletes ate during the weekend of competition.
Day 1

The first challenge was to get coaches, riders and equipment from Newport to Scotland. Coaches John and Anthony were fuelled by coffee and did most of the driving while keeping everyone entertained! Most of the riders had lunch with them for the journey consisting of lots of carbohydrates like pasta or rice to help them fuel for the next day. After a quick recce of the first stage it was time to get some food (meatballs and vegetables with pasta/potato and fruit) and attend the welcome meeting. After a long drive, the athletes did 20-minute activation session on the rollers and stationery cycling, received their kits and headed to bed.
Day 2 Itinerary: Race Stage 1

Breakfast had plenty of options from a full hot breakfast or toast, to porridge and cereals. This stayed the same each day. After the team signed on, we set off in the car to get a warm-up space next to the start/finish line. I have never seen a game of 'car Tetris' as complicated as that car park - it also turns out that 14 and 15 year olds have never heard of Tetris, so that made me feel old! The girls were up first and got incredibly unlucky with the weather as it chucked it down all morning and they got soaked. They battled the conditions and finished strong, with one of the girls winning the stage. After the race they were given a lunch box which consisted of a flapjack, rice and quinoa to replenish their fuel stores and chicken to repair the muscles after the stage and prepare for the next day.

The boys were next up to warm-up and after one getting a puncture (nothing a quick wheel change couldn't fix), the weather cleared and they also had strong rides.
After the first stage, the cyclists needed some food that was easy to consume for quick recovery, so I picked up some Yazoo drinks. These are a good option post-race because they are easy to drink, taste good, have carbohydrate to replenish energy stores and protein to repair their muscles. These were ideal for Saturday which had two stages. I also bought chocolate chip pancakes, cereal bars, biltong and nuts as potential snack options.
After the first set of presentations, it was dinner time. The options were chicken pie with mash or pork stir fry, with yogurt, fruit and rocky road. During dinner it was time to talk tactics ahead of time trials the following morning.
Day 3 Itinerary: Stage 2 and 3 (plus a quick hospital trip).

The girls ended their stage in a win and big time bonus, but it included an injury scare. One of the girls felt a 'pop' in her knee as she took a corner, and after finishing the stage (like a trooper), we headed for hospital. X-rays confirmed it was nothing too serous, but it did mean the end of her race. Meanwhile, the boys kept the Welsh form up and finished second in the team time trial with a storming race.
After a lunchtime refuel, it was on to the next stage and fast-paced and entertaining races for the boys and girls. Everyone enjoyed Fajita night (selection of meats and vegetables) plus ALL the trimmings - guacamole, salsa, cheese and sour cream. At presentation, the girls were on top of the team podium, with one in the Yellow jersey going into the final stage.
Day 4 Itinerary: Final day

Day 4 was a busy day starting with a crit (the cycling term for a circuit), around the school. The final stage was a gutsy performance from all riders. The girls won every jersey and one of the boys came third in General Classification (GC).
During a debrief of the weekend, I chatted nutrition! There were two key pieces of information. Firstly, I reminded them of the importance of having a colourful plate and 'eating the rainbow' to ensure that they got enough micronutrients to support their body and their immune system through a multi-stage race. Secondly, it was important to try and start practicing eating on the bike because it is a skill they'll need when the races get longer. 

After final presentations, it was time to head back to Newport after a hugely successful weekend. I learned lots and was fully accepted by the Welsh Cycling team - a big thank you for having me and congratulations!
Welsh cyclist pics - credit Scottish Cycling