For a professional cyclist, eating well is a big part of your job. Luckily, it's something I enjoy almost as much as riding my bike.
Food has to be healthy, it’s the fuel for your engine. But it also has to be tasty, so you can enjoy the good things, in a good way. At home, I have a kitchen garden, so I grow my own salad, my own fruit. My strawberries are the best. Our meat comes from a farmer 15km from home. Or I’ll go to the farmers’ market. That way, you know everything is good quality.
For breakfast, I’ll make pancakes with oats and protein, with some banana as a natural sweetener. My kids love those. At dinner, we might have potatoes or pasta, with some veggies and some grilled fish or meat from the barbecue. I love cooking outside when I can. We’re Dutch, so we also eat a lot of cheese. Sometimes, it’s hard to resist.
Peanut butter is a staple for me. Bike racers probably have 20 ways to eat it. You can have it on pancakes, or in a rice cake or with a banana; I think the whole of Team Sunweb eats peanut butter and bananas now after races.
I stopped eating dessert when I was riding with Unibet, in 2006. There were some Spanish riders on the team and they never touched it. You don’t need it and, as a pro, you need to watch your weight. I do enjoy good chocolate though. Everything in moderation.
But junk food? No. My kids don’t know what McDonalds is. We drove past a big yellow M one day and they said ‘That’s a nice spaceship’. We’d never go there.
On the bike, you’re always trying to make your motor more efficient, so I train low on carbohydrates and race high. I’ll stop for coffee and a piece of pie when I’m training, because that’s real food. Maybe in four hours I’ll eat one bar and something when we stop for coffee. I always carry a spare bar; I’ve usually one in my pocket at home that’s maybe done 2,000km round Holland without me eating it.
I don’t have gels during training. If you really hit the wall, stop for a Coke and a Snickers; you can usually go for another two hours on that. I don’t use recovery drinks at home either. I know what I’m going to eat for lunch when I leave for training and make sure I eat within an hour of getting home. Some meat or fish, some veggies, just the simple, natural stuff.
I’ll train with just water in my bottles. In three hours, I’ll maybe drink three bottles. During races, I’ll sometimes have some juice mixed with the water.
I eat clean, but I really enjoy a glass of wine or a beer. At home, we’ll open some wine, but we never finish the bottle on one day. On the Giro in 2017, when Tom Dumoulin was in the Maglia Rosa, we’d have a bottle of wine with dinner, but it would be a good bottle - a Barolo, maybe - and we’d share it between eight riders. I have a rule; I can drink a nice beer, but I have to burn at least 3,000kj riding my bike that day.
When I come home from a Grand Tour, I don’t get the urge to hit the beer and the chocolate like some guys because I have them all the time, just a little. It’s about finding a good balance.