Hydration Tips From The Vuelta

By Adam Galuszka
September 2, 2014

Team Garmin-Sharp is now a few HOT days into racing the Vuelta a España. We’ve been hearing some pretty crazy reports about the heat, which is well into the 100s (F). We’ve even heard about riders losing close to 10lbs of body weight fluids in a given stage. Team sport scientist Colby Pearce answered a few questions for us about what the team is doing to fight the heat with good hydration. 1. Is there a hydration strategy for the morning leading up to the stage, and do the riders consume a different product 20-30 minutes before the stage start? The morning of the race, the guys will have breakfast prepared by our team chefs, Sean and Olga. In addition to tasty nutritious food, this includes juices, tea, coffee, water and some branch chain amino acids, if they want them. Also Sean and Olga make a fresh Kefir drink for the riders to aid digestion. About 30-60 minutes before the stage, the riders will consume a pre race drink, which is either Skratch Labs exercise hydration mixed at twice the normal concentration, or for the Vuelta since its been so hot, they have used one serving of Skratch Labs Hyper Hydration. The Hyper Hydration is specially formulated to replenish salts in extreme conditions and contains massive amounts of electrolytes. 2. During the stage, can you estimate how many ounces of fluids riders will go through? In stage 2, a 200KM road race the riders went through a total of two hundred 24 oz bottles for the nine man squad. This was exceptional as the average temperature was around 36 deg Celsius. Normally, all of the bottles we give the riders contain Skratch Labs Exercise mix but on extra hot days, we include some bottles of straight water, so the riders can dump one on their heads and necks to cool off. This can help to reduce core temperature instantly and can make a big difference at key moments on super hot days. Also, we put ice socks in the musette bags which the riders will put down their jerseys just behind their necks. This simple effective solution has a big impact on performance. 3. If you see a rider with a very high sweat rate, what tactics do you take to help that rider understand what they need to do? Its true that some riders sweat more than others but regardless of how much the riders are individually sweating, the tactic is to keep them optimally hydrated and to keep their salts properly replenished. In general this is an uphill battle, as the logistics of professional cycling do not always allow us to get as much fluid to the riders as they require or could consume, but within those limits we try to deliver as close to the optimum as possible. This means on average 2 bottles of Skratch per hour, with this number increasing significantly as the temperature rises. Note: if you want to calculate your own sweat rate, check out this sweat rate calculator from Camelbak! 4. How important is hydration to recovery immediately after hot days? The sooner a rider can get fluids back in their system, the faster they are on the road to recovery. Glycogen cannot be stored in the muscles without water, so hydration is an essential component of any post race recovery routine. The simple answer is: the sooner, the better. After yesterday’s stage 3 of 170KM, which averaged 38 deg Celsius, André Cardoso crushed a liter of water within 3 minutes of arriving at the bus, which was only 500 meters from the finish line. When André says “It’s hot!” you know its true, this rider is used to warm weather conditions.