'Old mentality' in cycling still contributing to disordered eating, says Davide Cimolai

The Italian says he 'threw away two or three years' of his career due to eating problems

(Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Italian pro Davide Cimolai has opened up about eating disorders in the peloton, sharing his own experience of dealing with the issue, something that cost him "two or three years" of his career.

The Israel Start-Up Nation rider makes a distinction between old and new mentalities, and how those without backgrounds in nutrition hand out harmful advice, which can ruin the careers of young riders.

"It is the most important topic," Cimolai tells Italian outlet Bici as to whether riders in the current peloton talk about eating disorders. "There were those who stopped racing for this reason and luckily there are others who have thrown away the best years but at least recovered and are still in the bunch.

"One was with me, quite a talent, and it took him six years to come to his senses. Another has progressed to achieve exceptional results and at 19 he was already at the point that he did not even allow himself a pizza , but after four or five years he was fine."

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Cimolai says that disordered eating meant he wasted the first few years of his life as a pro, and that the issue is still prevalent in the sport due to the "older generation" instilling falsehoods in young riders.

I threw away two to three years of my career, my first as a professional, then I began to emerge," Cimolai said. "Many young people, especially young people, struggle with the problem of nutrition. Unfortunately, the 'older generation' still teaches wrong methods in my opinion.

"The problem was not born yesterday... just look around, how things are still going. If the rider has the old mentality, if after five hours of training you are given an apple or a piece of fruit, do you understand that something is wrong?"

The 31-year-old says neo-pros often think the only thing that matters is being light, when carrying a bit more weight could make them go faster.

"So you go pro and think that being light is the only thing that matters, while maybe that extra pound is the difference between going fast and stopping racing. I learned it the hard way.

"Right now, having someone on the team who sits behind you at the table to check what you eat, one who is not a nutritionist. Who are you to tell me certain things?"

Davide Cimolai is a member of the peloton who doesn't shy away from sharing the often difficult life of a professional cyclist. In 2019, he opened up about how his wife of just six months called during the Giro d'Italia to say she was leaving him for her boss.

"The hours on the bike were the least of the effort because in that last week of the Giro, I was sleeping three hours a night," Cimolai said of the experience. Since then, things have improved for Cimolai,  becoming a father in late 2020.

Jonny Long

Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races. I'm 6'0", 26 years old, have a strong hairline and have an adequate amount of savings for someone my age. I'm very single at the minute so if you know anyone, hit me up.


Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab, reporting about students evacuating their bowels on nightclub dancefloors and consecrating their love on lecture hall floors. I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).


I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.