Tour de France: Maarten Tjallingii’s meat-free journey through France
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Friday, July 23, 2010

Tour de France: Maarten Tjallingii’s meat-free journey through France

by Ben Atkins at 9:44 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Training, Preparation, and Health, Tour de France
Rabobank team chef cooks special dishes for vegetarian rider

Maarten TjallingiiFrance thinks of itself as the centre of the culinary World, each region has it’s own speciality dishes and its restaurant’s are the envy of the World. What all this haute cuisine does not do very well though, is cater for vegetarians.

Cycling too has historically been a meat-filled sport, and while the days of steak for breakfast have now passed, lean meat plays a large part in most riders’ race diet. Not for vegetarian Rabobank rider Maarten Tjallingii though, who has to eat a different menu to his teammates.

Luckily for the 32-year-old Dutchman, the Rabobank team, like all teams at the Tour de France these days, travels with its own chef. Just as luckily, the team’s Belgian chef Gino Laureyssen, remembers Tjallingii from when they were both with the Silence-Lotto team in 2008.

While his eight teammates get the more usual cycling-diet fare of chicken, beef and fish, Tjallingii gets a vegetarian dish cooked specially for him every day.

“We don’t try and sneak a bit of chicken into his soup, because Maarten would notice,” said Laureyssen to Sporza. “His taste buds are really well developed, but no matter what we cook he eats everything.”

“Maarten does give us extra work, but we know he’s a very grateful lad, and that helps.” “Often he asks us for the recipe so that he can cook it when he gets home.”

As for Tjallingii, one of the Rabobank team’s hardest workers, the lack of meat-based protein in his diet doesn’t hold him back; he doesn’t have to supplement his diet more than any other member of the peloton.

“I also take vitamins,” he said. “That’s what every athlete needs to do. I inherited my vegetarianism from home, I’m used to nothing else.”

While it is very unusual for a professional rider to be a vegetarian, it is not entirely unheard of. The most high-profile meat-free rider to date was Scottish rider Robert Millar (no relation to Garmin-Transitions rider David); he finished 4th in the 1984 Tour, the best finish for a British rider to date (equalled by Bradley Wiggins last year) winning the polka-dot mountains jersey on the way.


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