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Cooking for 100,000 professional bike racers


gfron1
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Well that title caught your attention didn't it!

Its almost accurate. Word on the street is that Lance Armstrong and his team are coming to our little town of 10,000 for our big bike race in two weeks. Official word is expected in a few days. Apparently when he comes to a small town, an average 100,000 people follow - a combination of other racers, media, fans, etc. This being a sort of come back for him and the primary training race before the Tour de France, a very large crowd is expected.

Okay, so I'm just a little 20-50 cover cafè. My food is time intensive because its fresh, mostly organic, most locally sourced. Not grab and go. That said, I sell more brownies and rice krispie treats than I can count (the rice krispie treats are house puffed hand-harvested Minnesota wild rice, Turkish unsulfurated apricots, pistachios, kumquat syrup, etc, not just rice krispie treats).

I operate on a home ceramic top stove - not gas. I have one bitty oven. I'm not a mass production facility. I think I need to get going right now in preparing and freezing foods that are:

1. Performance athlete friendly

2. Grab-n-Go

3. Easy to prepare in advance

4. Damn good to not compromise my reputation

So, what do you think? Any bikers out there that can tell me what they would eat if they were racing in a major multi-day race? The race is in less than 2 weeks.

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I'm an avid road cyclist and a less serious mountain biker but century rides and a few back-to-back centuries are about as big as it gets for me. Never been to the multi-day race level. However, my summer riding is usually 6 rides a week averaging 60 - 120 fast paced kilometers per ride plus one recovery day with a 20 - 30 kilometer easy cruise to ease the muscles. Foods that don't sit heavy, that are high in easily digested carbs and that don't tend to cause gastric upset or bloating work best for me.

To be honest, you're not likely to get many (or any) of the actual riders if this a pro event. They, along with their trainers, managers, team staff, etc, usually have pre-arranged meals at their place of accommodation. Your biggest crowd is going to be spectators, officials, volunteers and possibly media people. So worrying too much over what the athletes eat shouldn't be a big concern. The rest just eat whatever they usually eat so doing your food the way you do it should be the way to go. That way they can say "I had some damn good (insert food item here) at Rob's place, I think I'll go back" without it being something nobody will ever see there again.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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You're right about the pro cyclists, but we get all categories, so while we may not get cat 1, we can expect all the others who are looking for affordable and high volume eats. Each year we house a cat 2 team at our house. And then yes, the support teams and the multitudes.

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We have a friend who had his cafe on the Ragbrai route. (One week ride across Iowa). They basically had everything and everyone who could cook and serve working. They sold lots of burgers and slices of pie.

Price everything in even amounts with tax included. Here is a discussion thread about what the riders liked the best last year:

http://forums.ragbrai.org/viewtopic.php?t=4214

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Protein and carbs at night to help with recovery and a little carb preloading for the next day, easily digested carbs in the morning to fuel them up. Pasta is always popular at the century rides I attend. So is white rice. Fats are generally avoided or minimized. Your basic high carb, med. protein, low fat menu covers it pretty well. Some people like pre-ride protein, some don't. I do better without it but I see people with hard or soft boiled eggs at pre-ride. My gut doesn't like too much on it during the ride. I usually go with rice and fruit for breakfast and depend on liquid nutrition (Infinit) and water during the ride... then I eat the house down after. :biggrin:

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Stan - thanks for that link. That sounds much more like a touring ride, but there were some good ideas in there. I saw the breakfast burritos mentioned many times. I could crank those out for the morning take offs, pre-wrapped with a juice to go and maybe some fruit.

Larry - I've been thinking pasta. The easy road is a big pot of spaghetti with marinara. Would lasagne be too much fat - mine is very cheese intensive.

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Pasta for dinner is the old standbye.

Fruit smoothies (especially if you goose them whey or soy) are a new age classic.

Really easy: bananas!

I always ate pancakes the morning of a race. Not sure how popular this is.

And when I toured on a bike through hot places, my friends and I always craved iced tea.

If you really think you might get serious cyclists coming through, you could pick up a couple of cartons of Hammer Gel or Gu or Cliff Shots and sell them POS. About as anti-gourmet as anything in the world, but if you're busting out a lot of miles, they are the nectar of the gods.

Notes from the underbelly

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I'd vote for things that are easy for spectators to eat outside while they are watching the race... I'm thinking of handpies or dough covered goodies: calzones, empanadas, stuffed pita pocket sandwiches, samosas, etc.

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How about lentil or wheat berry salads

we used to do a green lentil salad with smoked chicken and dried fruit with a cider vin

and a wheat berry with feta, scallons, and dried fruit with a champaigne vin

they really sold well

The great thing about barbeque is that when you get hungry 3 hours later....you can lick your fingers

Maxine

Avoid cutting yourself while slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold them while you chop away.

"It is the government's fault, they've eaten everything."

My Webpage

garden state motorcyle association

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I think Emily_R has a good pulse on it in terms of hand held delicious stuff for the spectators. The great thing is that samosas, meat pies, calzone, etc can all be make ahead and re-heated and still have great flavor and texture. Stick with fillings that distinguish your place. Athletes at this level are going to have so many rules/superstitions and coach micro-managing they will probably not be your customers.

Also offering hearty salads like the grains suggested by Rooftop1000, and cut up fruits with maybe a light dressing in individual containers would be a nice complement to the heartier pocket items. Sounds exciting.

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Doing a lot of riding myself, there are several good ideas mentioned here in this thread:

* handheld breakfast items

* pasta for dinner

* total prices equalling dollar amounts. When I am riding, I carry a $ 20 bill. I neither have any change nor do I want to receive any coin change. It does not fit well in a jersey pocket.

* Pie for dessert

Regards,

Michael Lloyd

Mill Creek, Washington USA

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on the logistics side of things...

Sounds as though you may see a shift from eat-in cafe to grab & go. If you have space, temporarily add a small, sturdy wire storage rack, close to a power source, where you can house the extra bits of "stuff"

* a table-top oven (less than $200 in my neighborhood)

* an extra microwave ($75)

* bus bins & hotel pans

* to-go boxes, wrappers, disposables

* plastic containers have a nasty way of breaking/leaking in one's pocket or camera-bag. Can you source some bags suitable for one or two containers?

Do you have space for an additional fridge of some sort? Even a mini-bar fridge can be useful for things like condiments, sauces, and the milk/cream for coffees. Is there an appliance store which will rent you a used fridge?

What are your staffing plans?

* a guide-book of your menu items, complete with photos and ingredient list would cut down on the number "what's in this again?" questions.

* label everything: storage boxes/bins, hanging racks, etc. A photo on the outside and inside of the cupboard door can do wonders for keeping your space workable.

* if you plan to store items off-site, assign a runner who understands your menu and knows where you buy supplies

foodwise...

* grains and lentils for salads/wraps can be cooked ahead and frozen in small-batch plastic bags

* resist the urge to freeze in big batches; small flat packages (i.e., will fit into small-ish hotel pans, or into the microwave) will thaw more quickly, just when you need them.

* hand-pies and wraps will store well and be easy to serve/sell

* fresh fruit

Karen Dar Woon

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Is this the first year that the Gila is in your town? If your concern is that "America's only pro cyclist*" will be showing up, then I'd bet that your increase in business would be primarily from fans/sightseers. "Yummy" will be a lot more important to them than "performance food". The TdF is a huge party. Bike riders zipping by for 15 seconds is an excuse to drink and eat in the general vicinity of the road. Here in the states, it's happening at a much smaller scale. If you are assuming that there will be a lot more attendees than usual because of Lance, then I'd guess that the vast majority of them will be "regular folks" rather than avid/pro cyclists.

Looking at the race site, it looks like several stages will start in Silver City, and several will be totally outside of town. You may get a bunch of early morning sales of breakfast items, plus spectators looking for lunch/picnic items I would be looking for coffee and a muffin for now, plus bottled drinks and sandwiches/salads packaged and ready to go in a bag to take with me to where ever it was I was going to hang out along the road to watch the stage. Take a look at the start times to get an idea of when spectators will be getting ready to head out to watch the day's stage.

The Crit on Saturday should mean all day foot traffic, and more immediate/less pre-planned food.

(*Groan - it's just that there are a bunch of American pros, but Armstrong is the only one who gets any attention from the general public/press.)

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The race has always been here so nothing new. The concern and call for ideas comes from Lance making an appearance - we've also heard that Landis will be here. I then expect more riders, but certainly more spectators, and even more important to me - more support teams.

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This is all very, very helpful.  Can I ask though...what's the deal with pie?  I keep seeing it come up.  (That's my way of saying, I'm so not a pie person, but I can be if the price is right)

Both savorie and sweet pies can be hand held pockets....

and pie for desserts...you can pretend its healthy because its got fruit in it

not that I ever have Hostess apple pie for breakfast

tracey

The great thing about barbeque is that when you get hungry 3 hours later....you can lick your fingers

Maxine

Avoid cutting yourself while slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold them while you chop away.

"It is the government's fault, they've eaten everything."

My Webpage

garden state motorcyle association

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This is all very, very helpful.  Can I ask though...what's the deal with pie?  I keep seeing it come up.  (That's my way of saying, I'm so not a pie person, but I can be if the price is right)

I'm imagining it's all about the pack 'n' go, for both riders and spectators. Hand-pies are a nice change of pace from sandwiches and cookies. And if made well, can be quite sturdy.

Karen Dar Woon

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Its confirmed that Lance, Landis and some other big name that meant nothing to me, are definitely coming. Its also looking to be a bit warm. I'm gearing up for:

pre-race meals for the support teams: burritos, juice, smoothies and muffins

snacks for racers and support: my rice krispie treats, pies, banana breadish stuff, smoothies, orzo salad

Downtown race crowd food: empanadas, smoothies, and a big ol' pot o gumbo

Nightly for the non-cat1 racers: All you can eat pasta buffet...with pie!

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First, I don't believe ther are 100,000 Pro cyclists in the entire world.

Most of what you will see are USCF racers. The Pro teams bring thier own staff, cook included. The smaller USCF teams are looking for cheap, filling meals as they are usually dirt poor.

What you will also get are fans/ groupies and press who couldn't care what they eat as long as it tastes good.

I would have two types of items available; for the cyclists, meals that are cheap and filling and for the spectators something they can grab and go with. Good luck!-Dick

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we do Peets for our coffee so we'll be good there. And I've been told that they won't announce his arrival until next week to minimize chaos.

btw - lot's a lycra gliding around our streets already! Woo hoo!

Edited by gfron1 (log)
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