Pro Cyclists, Savvy With Shifters, Need Help Crafting Their Calories

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Photo: USA Pro Cycling Challenge
Cyclists race through Denver, competing in the final stage in 2011, the first year of the event.

Each cyclist competing in the USA Pro Challenge Wednesday will need to consume about 6,000 calories to support the trek from Copper Mountain to Aspen and get the rider ready for Thursday.

That's according to Allen Lim, who worked for about a decade as a sports scientist on the professional cycling circuit. Now, Lim runs Skratch Labs in Boulder, which makes food for professional and more casual athletes.

Lim focuses on fresh foods, and says his greatest legacy of working with pro cyclists is helping them learn basic kitchen skills. "I was more of an overqualified home-economics instructor than a scientist," he says. "I’m proud of that legacy."

Lim says cyclists need that sort of instruction, like how to boil pasta in water, because they often get wrapped up in competitive cycling at a young age. Then as professionals, they spend a lot of time traveling to races, where food is sometimes prepared for them.

Lim has co-written two cookbooks, called "The Feed Zone." He spoke with Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner.

Audio: Pro Cycling Challenge food - Allen Lim Skratch Labs Bacon Egg Rice Cakes
Bacon egg rice cakes

Bacon-egg rice cakes

Time: 30 minutes

  • 2 cups uncooked calrose or other medium-grain “sticky” rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 8 ounces bacon
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons liquid amino acids or low-sodium soy sauce
  • brown sugar
  • salt and grated parmesan (optional)

Combine rice and water in a rice cooker.

While rice is cooking, chop up bacon before frying, then fry in a medium sauté pan. When crispy, drain off fat and soak up excess fat with paper towels.

Beat the eggs in a small bowl and then scramble on high heat in the sauté pan. Don’t worry about overcooking the eggs as they’ll break up easily when mixed with the rice.

In a large bowl or in the rice cooker bowl, combine the cooked rice, bacon, and scrambled eggs. Add liquid amino acids or soy sauce and sugar to taste. After mixing, press into an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan to about 1½-inch thickness.

Top with more brown sugar, salt to taste, and grated parmesan, if desired.

Cut and wrap individual cakes. Makes about 10 rice cakes.

Tip: Lim says he always uses calrose rice, a strain of medium-grain rice common in Asian cooking. This variety cooks fast (in 20 minutes or less), retains a nutty flavor, and is just sticky enough to hold our cakes together. If you can’t find it, use another medium-grain rice or any kind marked “sushi rice.”

Nutrition information:

Per cake: Energy 225 cal, Fat 8 g, Sodium 321 mg, Carbs 30 g, Fiber 1 g, Protein 9 g

Photo: Pro Cycling Challenge food - Allen Lim Skratch Labs Cinnamon Apple Pancakes
Cinnamon apple pancakes

Cinnamon-Apple Pancakes

Time: 20 minutes

  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup milk or water
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey or agave nectar
  • a dash each of ground cinnamon and salt


  • toasted almonds
  • plain yogurt

Mix together all ingredients in a bowl.

Bring a lightly oiled sauté pan to medium-high heat. When pan is hot, pour batter to form pancakes, leaving ample space between each to allow batter to spread. Unlike traditional pancakes these will not bubble, so watch for the edges to brown, then gently flip over and brown the other side.

Serve hot, topped with toasted almonds, yogurt, or fresh fruit. Makes about 6 pancakes.

​Note: Almond flour is just finely ground whole almonds. Most groceries now stock it in the baking goods aisle or with natural foods (one common brand is Bob’s Red Mill). You can make your own using a food processor or blender—just be sure not to grind the nuts too long or you’ll end up with almond butter! And, if you’re not concerned about gluten, add ground almonds to your usual packaged pancake mix. Follow package directions from there.

Nutrition information per three pancakes: Energy 557 cal, Fat 47 g, Sodium 447 mg, Carbs 23 g, Fiber 6 g, Protein 19 g

Recipes republished with permission of VeloPress.