“It was the longest job interview you could ever imagine.”
Rune Sørensen and Hannah Grant are busy in the Tinkoff-Saxo kitchen truck, and while they don’t stop working for a second, they find time for a brief reminiscence.
“No cooking, just talking!” Hannah laughs.
Rune had travelled from Aarhus to Copenhagen after emailing the Tinkoff-Saxo chef at the suggestion of his father’s friend, who knows a body therapist on the team.
“We went to hang out for seven hours, or something,” Rune says, recalling his day in the Danish capital with his soon-to-be boss.
“That was important because we have to work around each other for six, seven hours. We have to hang out all the time. It’s not an option. It’s like, you have to hang out. We figured it out.”
The pair glide around each other in Hannah’s spotless steel kitchen with all the practiced efficiency of figure skaters. You half expect Rune to lift Hannah and launch her to the back of the truck, where she, landing faultlessly, might pirouette and slide back to the stove with the necessary provisions (apologies if this all sounds a little Lars Von Trier - they are Danish, after all).
The pair are engaged in preparing the riders ‘warm breakfast’ - pasta, rice, omelettes, oatmeal and the like - to be consumed roughly an hour after a light breakfast of muesli, breads and yoghurt.
We’re on Giro time, where things happens slightly later than at the other Grand Tours, Hannah says. The schedule affords the merest lie-in. An 8am start in the truck means a 7am alarm call.
The schedule is largely unchanging, but today is slightly different to its immediate predecessor. Yesterday brought the stage 14 time-trial and for a highly-placed rider like Tinkoff-Saxo’s leader, no serious exertion until early afternoon.
“Yesterday, for some of the guys, the warm breakfast is like a lunch, because Alberto started so late. You push it that way. With the time-trial, it’s usually four hours before, because a time-trial is full gas all the time. It’s the timing that’s the key factor,” Hannah explains.
“You don’t want to change up what they eat prior to any race. It’s all habits and they know how it works, so if you make a drastic change for one stage, you might screw it up. Bike riders’ stomachs are very delicate. You want to keep it the same, so they don’t all freak out.”
Today’s stage is entirely different, however: the second of the high mountain stages. Surely the nutritional demands change? “It’s a balance,” Hannah concedes, “but they know before the time-trial not to fill up too much, and then after the time-trial to load and get ready for the mountain stages.” Iron-rich red meat will be on today’s dinner menu, boosting the ability of the riders’ blood to carry oxygen around their systems.
Word that Team Sky chef - and fellow Dane - Søren Kristiansen has a new truck has filtered across the peloton, but Hannah is not suffering kitchen envy. Her work space was built to her own design back in 2012 and has “followed us around since then. It’s done quite a few Grand Tours.
“Søren’s kitchen is brilliant, but he has less storage space and work space, as he has a dining room,” Hannah concludes. “But I don’t want a dining room. That’s a lot of work - setting the table, cleaning.
“This is a two-person job,” she adds, gesturing at her own work space, “keeping it clean. There’s a lot of stuff to do.”
In between all the cooking and cleaning, Hannah has found time to write a book – the Grand Tour Cookbook – whose long-awaited English language edition is due imminently. Hannah has a launch party booked in London, at the Look Mum No Hands café in Mare Street, on Thursday June 25, 2015.
For now, fuelling Tinkoff-Saxo’s riders is uppermost in her thoughts.
Rouleur travelled with Saxo Bank's Ride Like a Pro programme. Click here for more information.