Letters to Lisa's Mum

Lisa's Mum presents A Culinary 'Cross Guide


It should come as no surprise to regular Ride Happy readers that Lisa's Mum, while waiting patiently for SBS to respond to her petition to replace Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin on their Tour de France commentary team, has many things to fill her day. Being on call for the Tour Down Under, for example, means that she can never be far away from her computer and long-range binoculars. Should Lisa's Mum receive the call up, her fans deserve the benefit of knowing exactly how many Weet-Bix Rohan Dennis has for breakfast, or the brand of tea that Richie Porte buys in the supermarket. Mum is nothing if not meticulous in her research.

A fan has recently written in to ask Lisa's Mum her insights on a typical CX rider's diet. The query is fortuitous in its timing, for Lisa's Mum is currently serving as adjunct professor at the School of Dietetics at New Hampshire University while completing her PhD in exercise metabolism of waffles in off-road cycling athletes. The PhD has taken slightly longer than anticipated on account of the School's strict ethics policy of using mice as subjects, meaning that Lisa's Mum spent the first two years of her studies teaching mice how to ride tiny cyclocross bicycles. However, with the bulk of her work now behind her, and a fleet of competent bike-riding mice, Lisa's Mum is well placed to advise on the ideal diet of CX riders.

 The diet of a typical 'cross rider can change depending on the season. Given that CX is a winter sport, the end of the racing season (often an opportunity for post-season blowout) also marks the start of bikini season. One cannot indulge in too many frites if one wishes to be bikini-ready by Summer. Many riders, therefore, choose to join road teams in the summertime so as to retain the right amount of peer pressure required to keen one's skinfolds low. 2014 CX world champion Zdenek Stybar, for example, recently announced that he would not be contesting the 2016 CX world championships, choosing instead to focus on his bikini ambitions with Etixx-QuickStep. The exception to this rule is Antipodean CX athletes, who craftily avoid summer by moving from southern to northern hemisphere as soon as the weather gets nice, thereby ensuring maximal frite gains.

Niels Albert looking bikini-ready

Niels Albert looking bikini-ready

Leading into race season, a rider's diet varies depending on their season goals. Before Cross Vegas became a World Cup, riders targeting this race would focus specifically on beer-hand up repeats, which are broadly similar to hill repeats but with a bit more vomiting. Those focused on a strong performance at Koksjide incorporate a lot of sand-eating into their diet, particularly those expecting to fall outside the top 10.

This is delicious. It just doesn't have your best interests at heart.  

This is delicious. It just doesn't have your best interests at heart.  

In Europe, a typical pro rider's diet in race season looks like this:

9am: Wake up. Espresso and muesli (the boring muesli, not the chocolate one).

10am: Consider riding. Wait for rain to clear while drinking espresso.

11am: Still drinking espresso.

12pm: Ride a little bit.

2pm: Spaghetti (no cheese), recovery drink. Pangs of espresso regret.

6pm: Spaghetti (no cheese), de l'eau petillant, one segment of orange.

Occasionally, riders slip up and find themselves rapidly approaching race season being very much bikini-unready. This may be because their diet has looked like this:

Breakfast (9am): Muesli met chocolade. Croissant with speculoos.

Speculoos: the Nutella of Benelux

Speculoos: the Nutella of Benelux

10am: Consider riding. Wait for rain to clear with spoon and speculoos in line of sight.

11am: Dispose of empty speculoos jar.

12pm: Ride a little bit (to waffle store).

2pm: Pick up some Belgian chocolate ('for the kids'). Eat chocolate on way home, dispose of wrappers under car seat next to empty speculoos jars.

6pm: Celebrate the end of the day with a couple of Belgian beers to wash away taste of chocolate. Kebab on way home. Extra cheese.

Tyler Hamilton's pre-tour meal

Tyler Hamilton's pre-tour meal

For those riders, the days immediately leading into race season follow the Tyler Hamilton Grand Tour Weight Loss Plan (TM) of 6-hour rides followed by de l'eau petillant and 2x temazepam. Lisa's Mum has limited data on these riders, who when contacted for interview declined to respond to emails, answer the phone or admit they were home.

Lisa's Mum hopes this answers your query, dear reader, and thank you for taking the time to write in with your question. Further insights will be published in Lisa's Mum's PhD thesis, entitled Waffles, waffle regret and Niels Albert, due out soon.


Ride happy.


Lisa's Mum replies: Sickness and the Office Douchebag

Lisa's Mum was thrilled with the helpful suggestions that came in from readers in response to the letter she received last week. As you may remember, the irrepressable Jerry Castle sent Mum a letter asking how he should deal with an Office Douchebag who insists on coughing and sneezing all over the office, threatening his preparation for the 2012 Commuter Olympics. The comments that came through following the post contained wisdom that would have made Confucious proud. Suggestions for avoiding sickness in the office included eating tuna, drinking craft beer, and turning Japanese. Lisa's Mum enjoyed all these suggestions, although despite being a lady of small stature she was unable to effect a complete Japanese transformation.

Lisa's Mum's complete response to Jerry is below. Remember, if you have a question for Lisa's Mum, send it to her in the comments section below, or send an email to her at jacobs.lisa@gmail.com.

Dear Jerry

 The Office Douchebag is a strange beast. Oftentimes I've noticed that ODs are possessed with such a generous and sharing spirit that they will share their germs freely, along with their e-galleries of wedding pictures and their opinions on office politics. You cannot fault their giving nature. ODs are typically endowed with a rather inflated sense of their own importance in the office environment. You can see this best when someone drops a big fat hint that the OD should go home and stop sneezing all over everyone: 'Oh [OD's name], you don't sound healthy. Maybe you should go home and rest.' To which the OD will respond with some kind of false matyrdom, 'Oh no, I can't. I've got too much work to do. I'll be ok.'

The reality, as you and I both know, is that should the OD go home, the world will indeed keep turning, and probably no one will even notice. But if they were to go home, they would probably sneeze all over their kids and their partner, and then they would REALLY get it.

In an ideal world, all work environments would operate in the same way as a European Protour team. At the first sign of a sneeze, the offending athlete is whisked into quarantine, where they remain for the duration of the sneeze and the following 14 days. I have even heard that Lance Armstrong, in his heyday, would order the quarantine of any domestique who demonstrated a sharp intake of breath (often the first warning of an impending sneeze). As a result, most of Lance's domestiques were quarantined within the first 5 minutes of their time trial warmup, which is why only Lance performed well in the Tour de France prologues.

Sadly, thanks to democracy we can no longer lock up people who sneeze over other people. All we can do is eat lots of tuna, drink craft beer and perhaps turn Japanese. When an OD gets you sick before an important race, you should, in the spirit of generosity with which you were infected, freely share your thoughts on the subject to the offending OD. And go and get some Sudafeds and thank your lucky stars that ASADA does not test athletes at the Commuter Olympics.

Love and kisses

Lisa's Mum

Letter to Lisa's Mum: Sickness and the Office Douchebag

Last night Lisa's Mum received a letter from the indomitable Jerry Castle. You may remember Jerry from such Ride Happy posts as What is a cyclist and the $15,000 starter kit (including Lisa's Mum's replyand A solution to magpie season: the RMD project. I think Jerry's problem will be shared by many. Lisa's Mum is taking it to the people for inspiration and advice for Jerry - please leave  your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and I'll pass them on to her. Dear Lisa’s Mum, Can you offer any advice on how to avoid sickness during winter? Well… that’s not really what I want to get to the bottom of. Not quite. Let me explain. At the moment I have a colleague who insists on coughing and sneezing all over everyone in the office. His philosophy when infected with a cold is to “share the love”. I didn’t mind so much when I was a typical office drone. In fact I was often excited by the prospect of minor illness as there was a chance of a day off. The chances of infection in the modern office are high as well – the lack of fresh air, fluoro lighting and 1 sqm of personal space would make most battery chickens feel at home. In an effort to fill my wage-slave life with something a little more interesting, and to provide an avenue to “release some steam”, I took up bike riding (in a mildly competitive way). Now that I train and race regularly nothing shits me more than a douche bag proudly infecting the whole office with his latest illness. It is the height of murderous selfishness. I can see a network diagram of illness starting with this guy, and then spreading to 5 others, then 25 others, then 125 others… Some of these, the old and frail, will be steamrolled as the illness builds in intensity with each transmission. Some of these folks will be Olympians training for their once-in-every-four-years-big-day-out. This office douche bag is undoubtedly responsible for not only thousands of nursing home deaths but the loss of 20 or 30 Olympic gold medals for Australia (this is hard to stomach, particularly when our track team is performing so well). So Lisa’s Mum, I’m hoping the wisdom of 30 years of Earl Grey drinking can help me with two questions? (1) How do I avoid sickness in the presence of an office sneeze machine? (2) What is a suitable punishment for those who infect me with illness prior to a race? Is this, for example, a bunny-boilable offence? A related question is… 3. How do I quickly get back into form after a minor illness? (perhaps that’s one for Lisa though?) Cheers, Jerry