Energy bars and sports drinks
These days it's all about energy and calories. Energy bars and sports drinks are found in the 'musette'. In the olden days cyclists used something else completely. This new book bevoorrading/supply by WieMu Roeselare (cycling museum Roeselare) gives us a nice insight as it tells the story of popular cycling food and its eaters. Thomas Ameye & Dries De Zaetyd dive into the rich history of eating patterns in 16 chapters. It's a good mix of anecdotes, and stories, combined with well chosen photos.
There are very few sports where food plays such an interesting role as in cycling. It's vital before, during and after, especially during the big tours. If you are serious about cycling you know exactly what I'm talking about. Nobody wants to be hit by a "fringale". It’s one of the worst conditions that can happen to a cyclist. The feeling when your reserves are tapped dry, and you still have some distance to ride, and worse a mountain to climb.
The good old days
A century ago they didn't take it so seriously because they didn't know any better. Back then they thought you had to avoid drinking water as long as possible because it was assumed that it wasn't good for the stomach. A "bidon" of beer, a dash of brandy, or a sip champagne was so much better. Races were very different as well. Riders had to pedal way more longer too. In the paragraph below you'll see what I mean.
Bordeaux-Paris about 552 km
The former Bordeaux-Paris race was about 552km long, so it obviously required a different energy consumption to get to the finish line. In the 1959 edition Noël Fore would devour 15 kilogram of food including 1 kilogram apples, 3 kilogram of oranges, a few lemons, 1 kilogram dried plums, a few pineapples, 0.5 kilogram raisins and bananas, three chickens, 0.5 kilogram minced meat, 0.5 kilogram of Gruyère cheese, a jar of jam, fresh fruit tarts and 1 kilogram of rice. He flushed it down with 6 bottles of tea, 6 bottles lemon water and 5 bottles of Vichy water.
Stories from in the book
Until the end of the eighties it was common practice to have a steak with rice for breakfast. Can't imagine having steak so early! There are many more of these kind of gems in this book. Below are a few impressions.
Bread in the musette
Briek Schotte embodies the type "Flandrien" from head to toe. An iron stomach and not of afraid of the harsh conditions that cyclists have to endure. I greet his statue from time to time when I pass Kanegem on my bicycle. Briek was a professional cyclist from 1940 till 1959. Briek loved a slice of bread. Story goes that Briek ate four breads in two days during the Tour the France. 1 day before the World Championships in Valkenburg 1948 Briek receives raisin bread from his dad. During the race he nibbles ten thick slices of raisin bread one by one. This was against the advice of a Belgian "soigneur" who thought bread was to be avoided because it burdens the stomach.
Much later tarts became popular in the peloton. There is one called "Boontjes" named after Tom Boonen by baker Jan Dierickx Visschers-Verbrugghe. Tom seems to like them very much. Freddy Viane asked the baker to come up with an alternative for the classical energy bar. He created a hard biscuit with dried fruit that is baked briefly to preserve the vitamins of the fruit. In 2012 they delivered these "Boontjes" to teams as BMC, Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, Lotto - Belisol & Accent Jobs - Willems.
During the 1950's alcohol was never far away in races. Germain Derycke loved Rodenbach, a beer from Roeselare, Belgium. Derycke was always thirsty during races, and sometimes he consumed up to 10 bottles of 33 centiliter in one race! His personal record was set during a criterium in Emelgem. There were 24 laps to ride and Derycke poured down one bottle each lap. That's 24 bottles! He alternated with some 'Spa' to clear his throat. Cyclists in that time were known to believe the conventional wisdom that a pint of beer is the equivalent of two slices of bread.
If you are into cycling, and you love reading about its history, you'll love this book. It is full with great stories that will raise an eyebrow. Foodies will love that best hobby cook Claudia Allemeersch shares a contemporary Flandrien recipe at the end of each chapter. Treat yourself to a carbohydrate "pasta grinta" and "chasse patate", or surprise your guests with a "pot belge" (aperitif) followed by a "steak in the pants" (main course) and a "dama bianca" (dessert). I certainly will try some of these recipes. The book with hardcover has 176 pages and costs €24,99. You can buy it at Standard Boekhandel. As far as I know, the book is currently only available in Dutch.
When you buy the book you also get an entrance ticket for the expo 'Bevoorrading' that runs until the end of January in the cycling museum of Roeselare. The exhibition 'Bevoorrading' is set in a original recreated cycling cafe. I'm hoping that I'll find some time to go visit this expo.