Soudal Quick-Step have had a somewhat anonymous Tour de France so far by their usual lofty standards. Fabio Jakobsen’s stage 4 crash hasn’t helped him in his pursuit of a second career Tour stage win in the bunch sprints, while Julian Alaphilippe hasn’t managed to swashbuckle his way across a finish line first either.
The team seems to be in a period of transition, with the squad being re-jigged toward the services of Remco Evenepoel’s Grand Tour ambitions at the expense of their historic Classics dominance. The likes of Jakobsen and Remi Cavagna announced on the first rest day of the Tour that they will be leaving the squad, while team boss Patrick Lefevere has also had to deny rumours he’s planning on selling the team.
However, a lifetime ago on stage 8 we saw a glimpse of the Quick-Step of old: Tim Declercq (of all people) getting himself in a breakaway move, before Kasper Asgreen then tried to bridge across late on in the race. It all proved futile, though, and the day was decided in a bunch sprint finish.
After Mads Pedersen had been on the podium and nearly every member of the peloton had paid tribute to Mark Cavendish following his crash-induced exit from the race, we wandered through Limoges and toward the town centre to find dinner.
Despite it being an almost everyday occurrence, there is still a novelty to coming across a team hotel. The buses all parked up, soigneurs and mechanics still rushing around sorting things out. But perhaps most intriguing – for both the eyes and nose – is the mobile catering units dragged around France to feed the riders nutritionally perfect and delicious food to keep them performing at their best. A just reward for a hard day of elite-level exercise.
The Cotton Kitchen is a private hire caterer from Kortijk in Soudal–Quick-Step’s native Belgium, and while they were hurriedly preparing dinner for Alaphilippe and company, we had the chance to quickly snap a photo of the plans and details written on the whiteboard wall of the van as we walked past.
On the right-hand side, we see (we presume) the grammage of how much carbohydrate and protein is optimal for each rider that evening. Notably Asgreen and DeClerq – riders who were in the break that day – got extra carbohydrates.
Further up and to the left, you also see the different granola recipes for Cavagna and Dries Devenyns. Then over to the left on the printed out pieces of A4 paper are more detailed menus, containing information of when it’s someone’s birthday (and we know the teams love a bit of cake action, some more than others). There is also the number of VIPs, sponsors and the like, who will be attending the evening’s dinner, to make sure the chefs don’t leave them with empty plates.
But the best part of all is at the top in the centre. The dessert menu for the Soudal–Quick-Step boys over the entire Tour de France.
Six different desserts are on offer throughout the three weeks, with each being rotated so the riders don’t get bored with the same sweet treats after every stage, some appearing more frequently than others.
Let’s start with the rarest: American pancakes, served on July 12 and 21, stages 11 and 19, respectively, the first a flatter day from Clermont-Ferrand to Moulins and the latter a lumpier, breakaway-looking stage to Poligny. If we had to guess, these are definitely Alaphilippe’s favourite.
Moving up the list, both ‘apple cake + almond’ and ‘brood pudding’ (bread pudding) appear three times, then ‘wonter toefjos’ which translates to winter desserts (we couldn’t find out what this is on Google) for four nights of the Tour. The final, nearly-observable sweet treat is something to do with ryst (rice), so we’re presuming rice pudding, a good dose of carbs for the team on five evenings.
Unfortunately, there is another five-night dessert that is obscured by the shelf above the serving hatch. We asked Soudal Quick-Step if they could let us know what it was – perhaps some sort of cake, ice cream, even a fruit salad – but they did not like the fact that we had been out papping their menu. Maybe there’s something to be gained from their rivals knowing which evenings brood pudding is being served? Or from how many fruits and nuts Dries Devenyns gets to have on his granola? Either way, this is the sort of capital-J Journalism we promised to bring you – and hopefully all will be forgiven once tonight’s American pancakes have perked the team up.
Either way, bon appétit to Julian and the fellas, each and every day of this Tour!
Thanks to Laurens Stevaert in the comments of the article who informs us:
“Wonter toefjos” is wentelteefjes which is like French toast (if I’m not mistaken). The “ryst” is actually rijst (written by a lazy writer, connecting the “i” and “j”) and probably refers to rijsttaart (rice flan: rice pudding filled pie) – a very popular cycling snack in Belgium!”
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