The thought of leaving the cold and ice of northern Europe behind to ride in Australia is probably an appealing one for the majority of cyclists stuck in wintry conditions.
However, for professional bike racers, competing in temperatures that you are not acclimatised to can pose a range of issues, not least to their health.
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British WorldTour squad Team Sky has a plan that it puts into place when riders are faced with high temperatures, and the risk of dehydration and over-heating.
Dr James Morton, Team Sky’s head of nutrition, explained how the team’s riders will cope with the conditions of an Australian summer during the opening WorldTour race of the 2017 season, the Tour Down Under (January 17-22).
“The Tour Down Under, for us, really differs from other tours, primarily because it’s the first race of the season so riders come into it in different physical shapes,” said Morton.
“From a nutritional perspective, it’s the temperature that poses a considerable challenge. Because it’s the first race of the season many riders come in not really heat acclimatised, so we have to work hard to try and reduce the stress of the heat to hopefully make sure we perform well in that particular race.”
Team Sky rider Luke Rowe explained how those taking part in the race deal with the conditions.
“Year by year, I’ve dealt with it better and better,” said Rowe. “As you get older and a bit more mature as a bike rider you tend to cope with the difficulties a little bit easier.”
“The first year I went there [to the Tour Down Under] on the Stirling stage, I completely wiped out and I was seeing stars. You see some people in a right mess. I’ve got the point now where I can race in 40 degrees and still perform to a half-decent level.”
The team uses Science in Sport products, and will utilise drinks and gels that contain electrolytes to combat the effects of dehydration. Riders are advised to drink around 500ml per hour of racing. In addition, riders will consume at least 60-90g of carbohydrate per hour.
Morton said that one way in which they monitor riders’ hydration is to weigh them first thing in the morning, then just before a race and then afterwards. That way, the team can track fluid loss in each rider and tailor a hydration regime to their individual requirements.
The six-day Tour Down Under starts in Adelaide, Australia, on Tuesday, January 17, and finishes on Sunday, January 22.