We chat to elite cyclist, Kai Pritzen on this episode of 32Gi Sports Nutrition. With the Telkom 947 Cycle Challenge taking place in a month’s time around Johannesburg, South Africa; Kai shares some nutritional tips with us. He rides for 32Gi sponsored outfit Team Karan Beef/Heneways.
You’re listening to 32Gi Sports Nutrition, I’m Mr Active, David Katz. Last week on the podcast we had a great nutritional guide that I did with Mark Wolff in the build-up to one of South Africa’s Big Three cycle races here. We had one last week as well, the Amashova down in Durban.
But the 947 Cycle Challenge, now called The Telkom 947 Cycle Challenge taking place on the 20th of November in and around Johannesburg. It really is a fantastic race. It’s a great pleasure now to welcome a man onto the podcast who will be out there. He’ll be racing with the elites. It’s Kai Pritzen. Kai, thanks for joining us on the podcast today.
Kai Pritzen: Thanks David. Thanks for having me.
DK: Kai, first of all, I know you’re part of the Team Karan Beef/Heneways setup, your first full season with them. How have you found being part of the team and the structures around what they put out there?
KP: I think it’s a really cool team, I feel very honoured to ride for them. We’re very privileged to have some cool sponsors on board like 32Gi. They give us some really good supplements which really benefit us for the racing. Also not just while we’re racing, off the bike as well.
For instance, we use their TruMag magnesium tablets which really help to get your magnesium up. So you don’t cramp and stuff like that while you’re riding. We also use the 32Gi Recovery which is very important for after your riding.
They say 45 minutes after a ride you should be taking in a recovery in the form of protein so that your muscles recover properly. Otherwise, if you don’t take a recovery shake, your body actually starts eating muscle instead of recovering the body from a hard training session.
DK: Kai, very important point you make there and it’s up to 45 minutes. You can eat way before that if you can, but at least within those 45 minutes. A great bit of advice there. You need to eat something after your event. We have done a few podcasts on recovery as well, I’ll put a link up to that.
Motocross to cycling seems a natural progression
But getting back to our conversation Kai, you’re 25 now, have you been cycling all your life? I believe you have a bit of motocross background. I know Matty Beers the South African mountain biker, same sort of thing. Is that a trend for motocross guys, to move over to cycling?
KP: It looks like it. I have a lot of motocross friends who are starting to do the whole cycling thing now. Maybe it’s a bit of a retirement for us ex-motocross guys, I’m not too sure! I definitely feel the motocross has helped the cycling quite a bit. It’s taught us how to suffer, if you know what I mean?
It’s made you a harder person, the motocross, and in cycling you need to suffer. The more you can suffer, the better it is for your racing. They say in cycling it’s not always who is the strongest rider, but it’s the one who can suffer the most. I definitely feel that the motocross has helped us with that. I’ve been cycling for about two and a half years. I’ve been cycling competitively for two years now, where I’ve been racing elite.
I stopped motocross in 2010. I raced motocross for 11 years of my life, so it was a big part of my life. So it wasn’t easy to just stop motocross and then get into cycling. But I did cycling to benefit my motocross and then I really enjoyed the cycling, so I carried on with that. That kind of gives me my fix now for motocross.
DK: In all honesty, you can’t break many more bones in cycling than I presume you did in motocross! Looking at cycling, of course we have sprinters, we have guys who tend to be better climbers; but you’re a bit of an all-rounder. A Jack Of All Trades, aren’t you?
Developing a race strategy as a team
KP: Yes, my build doesn’t allow me to be a pure climber and it doesn’t really allow me to be a sprinter, I don’t have the biggest legs around. So my build really does help me more for the classics, instead of the tours. More of like a race where I can get into the breakaway, that would suit me the best. Where I don’t have to sprint for a finish, if you know what I mean?
DK: Very much so. Talking about that the Telkom 947 Cycle Challenge taking place about a month from now on the 20th of November, this is one of South Africa’s classics. It’s got some hills, it becomes quite a punchy race. As a team, what’s your strategy going in there? Then personally, are you allowed a bit of freedom to have a go yourself?
KP: Yes, closer to the race we’ll decide what the team tactics are. But the main tactic is always to cover the main opponent. Previous winners, you’ll always want to try and mark those guys. If any of the big riders do get into a breakaway, you would want to send some of the team guys up the road together with him. You don’t want to let him go and all the team guys are sitting in the bunch.
To bring those guys back is not an easy job. If another team has a guy in the break, those teams won’t help you chase either. If you’re four guys trying to chase a breakaway of ten where there’s proper riders in there, there’s no ways you’re going to bring them back.
Kai’s nutritional racing tips
DK: Looking at a race day for something like the 947. Of course for the bulk of the field it doesn’t really apply because they’re not going to be doing it anywhere as near quick as yourselves, as the elites. The vets and the groups that go off after you. But for the guys who do go a little bit faster, just give us an idea of how you would fuel yourself from the morning and through the race, at something like the 947?
KP: Well, generally the morning before a race I try and eat a slice of toast with peanut butter on, white bread toast. The white bread burns quicker in your stomach, so it doesn’t lay there. The peanut butter gives you that bit of energy, it’s got the nuts and what-not in it.
Then before my race I usually drink about half a litre of water or juice or something, just to hydrate the body a little bit. I race with a 32Gi raspberry race mix, which really works well for me. It also tastes really great, it tastes really refreshing.
Then I also take some of the gels. We take every 45 minutes, try and take one gel, just for an extra boost, some extra carbs. Then what I also find, what really helps for me is bananas. Bananas really help, if I feel a cramp coming along, I just eat a banana. The cramp just disappears and it also it gives me energy.
DK: At the same point, when you’re going that fast, theoretically you can survive just on a liquid diet. But we don’t live on liquid diets. So to have that little break, to have something solid also must be good for your eating morale?
Real food can help break the fuelling monotony
KP: It is nice to eat a banana, also because it’s easy to get down. It’s not hard to chew on. Also just eating, like you would be able to get away with just drinking and taking your gels throughout your race. But just eating a banana, it helps you mentally just to get through the race as well. Just telling your brain you are fuelling it, so it can produce more power for your legs if you need it.
DK: Kai, one of the things people always say is one of the biggest benefits of being an elite or professional cyclist is the amount of food you can eat. Because of the calories that you need to put back in that you’re losing when you’re training.
But at the same time yes, you guys can eat a lot more and you tend to eat a lot more carbohydrates because that’s what you need. But you still need to watch what you’re eating in a way. Are there a few things that you try to avoid in particular?
KP: It’s funny that you say that. All my friends always say to me: How do you eat so much and stay so skinny. Then I always say to them: I need to lose weight. They say: Where are you going to lose weight? But we always try and stay as light as possible because it makes our climbing easier. Cycling is all about watts per kilogram.
I try to avoid carbohydrates on my rest days, if I’m not riding. If I’m on my bike then I consume carbohydrates. Also what I try to avoid or cut down a lot is on sugar. Sugar is very bad for you. Also I believe two days before a race, I don’t eat any red meat at all. I believe it makes me lethargic. Also red meat can take up to two days to be digested by the stomach. So it’s unnecessary weight just lying in your stomach instead of it being broken down into energy.
DK: Looking at something similar like caffeine, the effects of caffeine. If you almost fast off it for a few days before an event. Do you do that and then rely on caffeine during the events for a bit of a kick? Maybe use some of the G-Shots?
KP: Yes, I don’t really use much caffeine. Because I’m not a big coffee drinker anyway, so I don’t consume coffee if I’m not on the bike. But if I’m on the bike and I do take a gel, I tend to take a gel that has caffeine. The caffeine definitely boosts my mind, it wakes my brain up for racing.
Hoping to live the European dream
DK: Kai, looking at the rest of your career. One great thing about cycling is that you can have a bit more longevity than a lot of sports. We saw Amber Neben in the women’s time trial at World Championships, I think she’s 41 now, went and won the Gold. So age is kind of on your side. You could be cycling professionally for another 15 years.
But what is the goal for you? Just to add on there, in South Africa often the road cyclists, because of the money now involved in mountain biking, move over to mountain biking. I know you dabbled a bit in that, but is your ultimate goal to stay on the road? Maybe get to Europe or at some point to switch possibly to mountain biking?
KP: I think everyone’s goal is to race professionally in Europe, but for now my goal is definitely just to have fun on my bicycle. Then results just come from having fun on my bike. I just love riding my bicycle and results come alone. But I do quite a bit of mountain biking as well. I live on my road bike for most of my training, but then I do a lot of races on the mountain bike, if you know what I mean?
I definitely need to start training on the mountain bike to get my single track skills up. Also there’s this new thing now, they race XCO. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, XCO, where there’s a lot of skill involved, you can’t just go and race XCO just because you have strong legs. You really need the skills for that. XCO is definitely going to take off one of these days because it’s just so spectator based.
Because you’re racing laps, the people can actually see you five times in a race. Whereas if you go on a mountain bike race, you disappear into the bushes and they see you two hours later at the finish. XCO is definitely going to grow, so I definitely would like to up my skills a bit so that I could be competitive on the XCO’s as well.
DK: That’s where we’re going to leave it for today. Thank you very much Kai for joining us on 32Gi Sports Nutrition. Do follow him at the Telkom 947 Cycle Challenge, the whole Team Karan Beef/Heneways, they will be there. It’s going to be an exciting race. From myself, Mr Active, David Katz, I’ll catch up with you again on the next edition of the podcast.