How do you fuel hundreds of cyclists on an epic 1,000 mile challenge?
Karl Holbrook is taking part in a 1,000-mile cycle challenge this year. In his third feature he speaks to catering manager Lulu Cowley about keeping the riders fed
To cycle more than 100 miles every day for nine days is no easy feat.
And cyclists taking part in the epic Deloitte Ride Across Britain will burn a whopping 7,000 calories a day thanks to their efforts. That’s an eye watering 38 million calories burned across the whole nine-day event.
The person responsible for filling the riders’ stomachs is catering manager Lulu Cowley, from Beau Nosh, who has given us an insight into the massive logistical operation involved in feeding so many people across such a large area.
For the past six years the firm, which specialises in catering in unusual venues, has led the catering for the event that sweeps the full length of the UK from the craggy coast of Land’s End to the windswept cliffs of John O’Groats.
“For any endurance event,” Lulu explains, “food is a hugely important factor. The riders train hard for the event and on the ride Beau Nosh are responsible for all their nutritional needs.
“The 850 hungry cyclists eat a huge amount over the course, averaging about 7,000 calories per day, and the thought of a good meal and a warm welcome at the end keeps the riders going when the going is tough.
“Cooking in a field is Beau Nosh’s speciality, but the unique nature of the event means that the landscape is always changing.”
During this event Lulu and her team cater entirely out of field kitchens. They have two teams, each with 18 staff, who leapfrog each other up the country setting up and catering out of temporary kitchens.
“The reality of a field kitchen is that you have to bring absolutely everything with you,” she explains. “Two trusty trucks travel with us taking everything from work surfaces, ovens and even the kitchen sink from venue to venue.
“When we arrive the kitchen and restaurant tents are completely empty and we set it all up, right down to welcoming flowers on the table.”
To make the event work each team has an alternately long day starting with afternoon tea at a venue and catering everything right through to breakfast the next morning.
First service is afternoon tea, typically served from about 2.30pm. The riders arrive fresh from the road and devour mounds of toast, cakes and gallons of hot soup.
Dinner starts at about 6pm and is served until the last rider comes in, usually around 10pm. Beau Nosh typically provides five choices of main meal per night and caters for all types of diet and accommodates all allergies.
Lulu says: “We carefully plan our menus to ensure that evening meals are protein rich and contain plenty of carbs to replenish energy reserves for the miles ahead the next day.
“An average dinner service requires about 200 kilos of meat as well as a fish option, high protein veggie dishes and a pasta dish.
“The riders also get through tons of salads enriched with pulses. All that exercise means that there’s always room for a pudding or two, and for those having an Oliver Twist moment the supply is plentiful enough for seconds and even thirds.”
The early bird catches the worm (or the empty roads) and breakfast starts as early as 5am – meaning that the team are back in the kitchen at 2:30am to prep.
“As you might expect breakfast is all about the porridge and honey,” Lulu says. “And we get through vats of it. Cooked and continental breakfast options are also popular as the riders load up for a long day in the saddle.”
After breakfast the crew dispatch 1,000 pit stop sandwiches. These, together with chocolate and energy drinks, provide the energy boost needed to keep the riders going, particularly over the last few miles of the day.
“After that all that’s left is for us to pack up the kitchen sink, climb back in the lorry and get ourselves on the road,” Lulu says. “We travel on for about 200 miles to set up another kitchen and start again the next day with afternoon tea service.”
Award-winning Lancashire chef STEVEN SMITH, from the Freemasons at Wiswell, shares two brilliant recipes to keep you fuelled during your training:
Homemade granola bars
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (optional)
Line a baking tray with baking paper and set aside. In a small saucepan over a medium heat, bring the maple syrup to a boil, for one minute. In the meantime, place the oats in a large bowl and set aside. Remove the pan of syrup from the heat and stir in the peanut butter and salt. Immediately pour the warm mixture over the oats, and use a spatula to stir well, coating the oats evenly. As the mixture cools, it will become sticky and difficult to mix, so move quickly!
Transfer the mixture to the tray, and pack it into the base. Pressing firmly will ensure that the bars stick together well later. Place the pan in the fridge or freezer to cool, then use a large knife to cut the bars. Stored at room temperature, these bars should last for up to a week.
Jersey Royals with eggs, ham and mushrooms
1 large handful of button mushrooms
Chives, finely chopped
1 dash of dry sherry
1 dash of rapeseed oil
4 organic eggs
12 Jersey Royal potatoes
50ml of ham stock
4 slices of good quality cured ham
Place a pan over a medium heat and add a large knob of butter. Once the butter begins to foam, fry the mushrooms until lightly golden. Add a splash of sherry and pinch of salt and simmer briefly to glaze. Remove from the heat and finish with chives and oil.
To prepare the eggs, bring a large pot of water to the boil. Once boiling, turn down to a simmer and poach each egg for one minute each, then remove from the water and cool in ice water.
For the Jersey Royals, boil until soft then remove the potatoes. Add to a hot pan with a knob of butter and a generous squeeze of lemon juice, cook until glazed.
To prepare a sauce, heat the ham hock stock in a small pan. Once warm, add a dash of lemon juice and a knob of butter, remove from the heat and stir to emulsify.
Dress each plate with swirls of the sauce, then place the egg in the middle with a piece of ham and chunks of pork scratching on top. Arrange the warm mushrooms and potatoes alongside and scatter with chopped chives.