By Zap

Already a beloved presence among the riders in the Amgen Tour of California for having brought new found taste and nutrition to their daily regiment after taking control of the hotel menus last year, Skratch Labs took their goal of improving the life of the racers one step farther this year with the first-ever use of a neutral feed car. Following months of planning and many meetings, for the first time both a support car and motorcycle would be allowed in the caravan with the sole purpose of providing food, drink and the always desired ice socks to riders who normally would go without due to the UCI’s strict on-course regulations.

On the penultimate stage 7 of the Tour, we got to shadow the Skratch Labs crew from sunrise in Valencia to the  late afternoon stage end in Pasadena. The day started with their rice cake production and breakfast at the teams’ hotel and ended in the front seat of a Skratch branded Subaru Outback holding on for dear life as we raced down  the Angeles Crest Highway trying to keep up with the fast descending riders.

Skratch Labs founder Allen Lim revolutionized the concept of on-the-bike food by introducing his now famous rice cakes to the pro peloton five years ago with the two most popular flavors being sweet (raspberry jam, chocolate chips) and savory (almond butter and bacon). You can find the recipes in their ‘Feed Zone’ cookbook.


Filled with lots of bacon and almond butter, the “savory” rice cakes proved to be the most popular among the riders.


After some of the teams started hording rice cakes early on, Skratch had to clamp down to ensure that there were enough to go around  – each team got two bags that they could fill to the brim.


Allen and his crew oversaw the daily production of up to 800 rice cakes each day. Team soigneurs would dutifully arrive before breakfast to wrap the cakes with each rider being allotted two of each flavor (sweet and savory).


         “I want control, precision and beauty!
Allen Lim’s shouted instructions to the rice cake wrapping production line.


In order to get the job done, the Skratch team would  start steaming rice by 3:30 am each day using these portable rice cookers. Over 100lbs of rice would be used daily.


Prior to the race, Chef Biju Thomas visited 14 hotels in two days to transform the riders’ menu from bland and disliked to healthy and appreciated. While the better teams did get to stay at the better hotels, Biju made sure that all of the food was to his liking. ‘The riders are all on a regular program with food ? they don’t want to have to think about it. With our menu they won’t find any rubber chicken and frozen corn!



“These guys love burritos!”

Biju Thomas on what the WorldTour riders seemed to enjoy the most.


The breakfast menu consisted of many of the same staples used by us normal cyclists: eggs, meats, pasta and lots and lots of oatmeal.


Even with all the choices supplied at the breakfast buffet, many teams still bring their own staples.


The conditions for a neutral feed car were optimized on Stage 7 of the Amgen Tour of California as it was an especially arduous day on the bike with plenty of exposed climbing in temperatures that ran into the triple digits.



In the neutral feed car, Skratch had their CEO (and former pro racer) Ian Macgregor (l) and former National Champion Timmy Duggan doing hand-ups of food, drink and ice socks. When they weren’t taking care of the riders, the Skratch lads were happy to provide hand-ups to race photographers, VIP cars and the Highway Patrol. As Allen said, “It all comes down to just trying to create a better experience for everyone.”


With the help of a dedicated motorcycle, fresh bottles are able to get to riders in a break before the team cars were allowed access.


As is true with getting a ride in any team car, having the opportunity to get up close to to the riders and all the race action is an unforgettable memory.


Even with the Skratch neutral support, if the timing worked out some riders were still able to get serviced by their own team cars.


“Well, I guess this video won’t make the Skratch web site!”
Timmy Duggan as he filmed the rip-roarin’ descent down the Angeles Crest Highway on the “wrong” side of the (closed) road.

Not just for riders in the break, the Skratch car would also fall back and take care of the riders who were behind the team cars. They would pass out at least 150 chilled bottles a day.


With a few bottles leftover, Tim was happy to provide some cold bottles to a parade of thirsty motorcyclists.


After flatting on the very last climb before the long, windy, and fast descent into Pasadena, Team Cannondale’s Cameron Wurz received a welcome “turbo bottle.”


After almost six hours in the Skratch Labs car, Old Town Pasadena was a welcome sight.


The three lap course in Pasadena gave spectators a chance to see some of the world’s top riders up close  – and vice-versa.


For more info: Skratch Labs.


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