The team behind the team: Meet our two cooks and nutritionist

The team behind the team: Meet our two cooks and nutritionist

Friday 21 May 2021 - 18:18

Our fifth instalment of this fascinating series gives you the opportunity to know other members of the Wolfpack staff.

You don’t see them on the race itself, but back at the hotel Riet Van de Velde and Sascha De Bruyn from Kookeiland are working hard this Giro d’Italia to prepare the best meals for the Deceuninck – Quick-Step riders. Always in near contact with nutritionist Marije Jongedijk, who helps them to give the best support to the riders.

A look into their lives

You can find Riet Van de Velde and Sascha De Bruyn in their cooking truck, where they spend most of the day in. Long days from 6am until 10pm, Riet explains: “We wake up mostly two hours and a half before the riders’ breakfast. We start the preparation for the breakfast by making pancakes, smoothie, fruit salad, oatmeal porridge and then the post-race food. À la minute we make omelettes and sometimes something extra like rice pudding, banana croque, or french toast. After breakfast we pack up the truck and leave for the next hotel. When we arrive, we install the truck and we go to Lidl depending on how much ingredients we still have. When we come back to the hotel, we start prepping the dinner which always consists of a starter, a pasta or rice dish, a choice between meat or fish with different vegetables and a dessert.”

Fresh food from Lidl

Sascha and Riet have been doing several races so far, so they know exactly how to work. “I help Riet wherever possible, for example with the vegetables or making a fruit salad. I also serve the riders”, Sascha adds. Food is super important, especially the variation. That’s why Lidl is the perfect partner. In every country there are different local products so Sascha and Riet can serve the best fresh products on the table.

Marije Jongedijk assists them by giving advice and helping with the menus. “My role includes different things”, Marije says. “Giving advice to the cooks about the menus and the proportions. But also individual advices for the riders, what you have to eat for breakfast, what you have to eat before a mountain stage, or what it’s better you don’t eat. The third part is being in contact with the team’s doctor, what they have to drink and eat during the race. I count the calories per rider, after each stage I get to see their watt info. I also know how many calories they took for breakfast and for the recovery shake, so then I can count how many they can still take for dinner. Someone who weighs more, and pushes higher watts, gets a bit more pasta than someone who’s 10 kilograms lighter.”

The everyday contact with Marije is essential, Riet explains. “With Marije I make up the menus, which are adapted to the type of stage. She’s also the first contact person for the riders. We get the weights for the pasta course and how many calories they can take in again. If there are things that need to change, we are in contact with her.”

Cooking for a cycling team is always a challenge, as you have different races and different profiles of riders to take into account.

For this Giro we have divided the riders into three groups.

“The lightweights, Remco and James. João, Pieter, Fausto and Mikkel as the middle weights and Rémi and Iljo as the big motors. Last year we went from the Tour almost immediately into the Giro, so then you need to make a click as it was a totally different team with different needs. But the best feeling after the hard work in the truck is seeing the riders smile or say a nice comment about the food”, Sascha smiles.

Cheat days

Also Marije confirms food is a really important part in a rider’s life. “Everything around top sport is a big chain where food is one part of. If this part is not right, then you can miss out on an opportunity to win a stage for example.”

And also cheat days are essential. “Mentally it’s important to have a cheat day sometimes. But timing is important, am I well recovered from my last effort or training and what is the planning for the next day? The ideal moment to cheat is the evening before a rest day. For example, Monday before the rest day, they had a hamburger and Tuesday noon a pizza.”

To end the day, Riet and Sascha eat with the staff and talk about how the day went. “It’s the only moment we get to see other faces and it is nice to be served once a day too”, concludes Sascha.


Photo credit: ©Wout Beel

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