How should you prepare properly for a road race?


Anaïs, a road cycling specialist, explains: "A cycle race can be broken down into several stages. The start is fast, with regular attacks during the first 20 minutes. The next stage involves cycling at a regular pace. The final stage is characterised either by fresh attacks or a final sprint for victory. These races are stressful since there is a lot of contact between cyclists and you have to fight to 'keep' your place. The races last about 2 hours and suit me well since I'm a 'rouleur' and like the feeling of power when I cycle".

Questions/answers with a road cycling specialist, Anaïs Valiavanos

How do you prepare for your races?

2 weeks before the race

Anaïs' action: "To start with, I stop eating too many cakes and excessive fried food. I stop consuming unfamiliar food (Chinese food, among others). To offset the intensive training, I take a weight gainer, preferably rich in BCAAs, once a day before training. I am careful to drink at least 2 litres of water a day and vary the type of water according to my bowel movements. I make sure I sleep as well as possible."

My advice:"Good preparation starts early, enabling your body to get into really top shape. Limiting fat and unfamiliar food is a good way to protect your bowels. It's worth taking a weight gainer, especially for recovery, since training is intensive during these preparation periods. Weight gainers consist of carbohydrates and proteins, which are essential during this period. Make sure the protein in the product is whey protein since this is rich in BCAAs."

1 week before

Anaïs' action: "At the start of the week, I eat a lot of vegetables and a little meat or some eggs. At the end of the week (the last 3 days), I reduce the vegetables and considerably increase starchy food (pasta, semolina, potatoes, etc.). I am careful not to eat too much meat and dairy products and opt for fresh fruit or compotes.

My meal the evening before generally consists of white meat, followed by stewed fruit or compote."

My advice: "Anaïs bases her nutrition on a Scandinavian diet, which she has adapted. This diet has proved its worth, but is difficult to follow, especially psychologically. The priority is to maintain a balanced diet and retain vegetables, which provide water, vitamins and fibre. The last three days are crucial for energy reserves. It is therefore very important to consume starchy foods. This can be combined with a maltodextrin powder if you don't want to modify your normal diet too much. For sensitive bowels, it is better to limit fibre-rich food in favour of vegetables and stewed fruit."

The morning of the race:

Anaïs' action: "My breakfast consists of cereal with a drop of milk, followed by a coffee. 2 hours before the race, I start drinking maltodextrin-rich drinks and have my energy drink during the warm-up. This drink comes with me during the race."

My advice: "The final meal helps maintain energy reserves and consists mainly of carbohydrates. You don't absolutely have to eat something while you are waiting. But it may help anxious people to consume some carbohydrates during this period. Be careful about the type of carbohydrates you consume, to avoid a hyperglycaemic reaction as soon as you start. A maltodextrin-based drink may fit the bill during this period."

How do you handle yourself during your race?

Anaïs' action: "At the start, I'm focused on my race since you need to be tactical and react quickly in the face of attacks. It's only after about 45' of a race that I think of drinking something and have an energy gel tube. For the rest of the race, I drink regularly and consume a gel tube as soon as I start feeling tired or when I know I need to get through something really difficult. When I'm preparing the final sprint to the finish line, I have a quick energy gel to give myself a little boost."

My advice:  "During a race, you should aim to avoid becoming dehydrated, hypoglycaemic and completely exhausting your energy reserves. Regularly drinking an energy drink, contributes to a regular energy intake. Gels are a supplement to drinks for fighting off tiredness. To avoid digestion problems, remember that you must have tested any products used during a race during your training."

How do recover from your race?

Anais' action: "Just after a race, I drink some sparkling water or a fizzy drink. I feel this quenches my thirst. Or else I drink a huge amount of water and a recovery drink. When I get back home, I have a bath to relax my muscles and finish off with a relaxing oil massage."

My advice:  "Start the recovery phase as soon as the race ends, you need to compensate for water loss, build up your energy reserves again and help promote muscle reparation. So it's good to drink something as soon as the race ends. Be careful about what you choose to drink; you should drink alkaline rather than acidic drinks. Recovery drinks contain all these components and are easy to prepare. They can be replaced by recovery bars supplemented by water."


Thank you for your answers, Anaïs.

Anais Valiavanos, aged 31, has been cycling since 2009 and started competing in 2010

  • 6th place in time trials at the 2013 UCI masters world championships
  • 2012 and 2013 UFOLEP French time trials champion
  • 6th place in the 2011 UFOLEP French championships
  • UFOLEP departmental and regional road cycling champion in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013
  • 290th place in the LOOK 2014 cyclosportive scratch race
Marie Fauchille
Dietician | Nutritionist
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