If there’s one thing that Sage riders like to do, it’s ride a long way. Just this weekend at Belgian Waffle Ride in San Diego we saw both Barlows and Skylines taking on the 132 mile course. Riding this far, especially on technical gravel, comes with its own set of challenges. You need to get in a lot of fuel for those hard climbs, but carrying and consuming enough can be tricky when you are bumping around on dirt.

BWR was 132 miles, next month’s Dirty Kanza is 200. It turns out that 200 miles is a lot further than 132 and if you make a few nutrition mistakes, a double century can really suck. We canvassed a few of our sponsored riders to see what their tips were for eating for the longest day in gravel. Even if you’re not hitting any 200 mile races this month, there is plenty that we can all learn about how to eat to compete.

First of all, the number one rule of sports nutrition is TEST IT, Try Everything Several Times In Training. That means that whatever you do, know what works for you and test it in race paced efforts before the big day. Try and work out how many calories you need per hour on long rides, and make sure to eat foods low in fat and high in carbs. Most people find themselves settling between 200 and 400 calories an hour, which can be anything from less than 50 to 100 grams of carbs. Try something in the middle, say 300 calories and 60g of carbs, and if you bonk then you know you need more food.

Where those carbs come from is also important. In hard efforts or on hot days it is difficult to process anything but the simplest of carbohydrates, something which Sage Owner Dave Rosen found out at BWR this year. “Instead of putting jet fuel in my gas tank, I put unleaded fuel from Arco and I suffered because of it.” Dave loves Hostess Zingers, and figured they’d be a great source of sugar and sodium for a long ride, the problem was that they pack a whole lot of other stuff which his body wasn’t keen on digesting as he put out hard efforts on a hot day. After eating two of his Zingers, Dave was in a bad way “ the second one pushed me into uncharted territory in terms of borderline passing out on the climb due to my body having trouble breaking down the bad stuff in the Zingers. I had 10 of them stuffed into my feedbag and I threw 8 of them out.” After stopping and re-assessing, Dave switched to more simple fuel sources for the rest of the ride, relying mostly on gels and electrolyte drink. After 60 miles of nothing but very sweet gels, he was in trouble again, and was able to get down a Fig Newton and a few bites of a bagel. This got him to the end, but it wasn’t anywhere near as much fun as he could have had. “The training I did for the race was correct, but my nutrition was so bad that it negated everything I had done in preparation.”

We asked Sage sponsored athletes Anna Grace Christiansen and Jacob Rathe what they turn to in long hard efforts. Anna likes to stick to real food and lots of sodium, among her go-to’s are V8 drinks, olives, nutella/butter/peanut butter sandwiches, pickles or pickle juice (in the feeds) and salt tabs every two hrs or so. To offset this high sodium consumption she takes care to hydrate, “last year at Kanza I I had plain water in my camelbak and scratch or half coke/half water in my bottles.”

Jacob also makes sure to get in enough salt, he loves potato chips five hours into a big day. He also stocks up on simple sugars to keep fuel coming in without taxing his digestive system “ I just rely on a steady stream of Haribo, Gummy Bears and Swedish Fish” he told us. Eventually, on a long training ride when you just need to get home, he’ll even drink a beer.

So what are the take homes from our three riders here? Firstly the importance of trying your fuel out in race-like training conditions and know what works for you. If you find out that what you are using in races turns on you, get simple sugars in you however you can. Gels, gummy candy, and soda are all great options that our riders suggested and that you can find easily on the course of any race or at gas stations. You should try different foods, especially if you know your target event will have those foods on offer. Don’t be afraid to experiment, just don’t do it on race day. If there are treats you want to eat, but you’re not used to eating them on the bike, save them for after the race when you’ll know you’ve earned them and can enjoy them without sweat on your hands and dirt in your teeth.