The latest, legal performance-enhancing substance to grip the peloton is a Swedish-made hydrogel that allows athletes to double the amount of carbohydrate, and therefore sugar, they ingest without any added gastric discomfort.
'Maurten', first produced in the Scandinavian country back in 2015, reports French newspaper Ouest France (opens in new tab), took a while to make it to the peloton, but after the product contributed to Alberto Bettiol's Tour of Flanders victory in 2019 as well as marathon runner Eliud Kipchoge's sub-two hour marathon last year, the bunch began to take notice.
The hydrogel is made from a derivative of algae and is officially described as an algae-based sugar transporter. Unlike other energy drinks, whose high sugar content can disturb a rider's stomach, Maurten is said to be able to bypass these negative side effects while still administering large doses of sugar.
"Previously, the 'acceptable' limit was around 7 per cent carbohydrate in sports drinks. With Maurten, this can go up to 14 per cent," company representative, Vivien Tétard, said. "Twice as much. A small revolution in the world of endurance.
"It allows you to push past certain limits," he continues. "The example of Kipchoge demonstrates this well. With that, it is also an energy survival blanket. If you take Maurten regularly during the race you will not suffer cravings."
Maurten, it is important to point out, is fully authorised by both the World Anti-Doping Agency and the UCI, Tétard saying: "We have no miraculous ingredients. We just provide sugar to the body during exercise through hydration, without side effects, so it's very normal."
It's said that some pros drink up to five cans of Maurten per race, across 40 per cent of teams according to Tétard, including EF, Jumbo-Visma, Israel Start-Up Nation, and Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert.
The reason we haven't heard about it before?
Well, with a number of teams sponsored by rival energy drink companies, some WorldTour outfits prefer to keep their Maurten consumption quiet.
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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.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and 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.
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