Saturday the 5th of September it was d-day. In this crazy cycling year 2020 in which, due to the corona crisis, bike races and gran fondo's were cancelled or, if we were lucky, postponed to a later date in the year. Luckily the Marmotte started anyway. The Marmotte was not on my list this year, but because so much was cancelled and the Marmotte was moved, I still got a clear cycling goal. There was enough time to prepare myself. With the hunger knock in the back of my mind in the climb of the Galibier in the version of 2016 and the fact that I always find it difficult to eat enough during these kind of long cycles, I came across the name Maurten on the internet in my eternal search for the right gels and bars.
Maurten has been the hype in sports food country for a few years now.
Eliud Kipchoge used it in his marathon record under 2 hours. A year ago it was even used during the improvement of the world record on the half marathon. A remarkable fact, because that world record is below the hour and normally little or no food or drink is consumed by the top athletes during performances that are so relatively short.
I never eat while running or cycling if my training doesn't last longer than an hour and a half. I make sure I have eaten enough in advance and on my bike I take a water bottle with me. The crits I ride are also never longer than an hour and a half. A gell before the start and a bottle (500 ml) of water in the bottle cage will do. If I do a long endurance training, I take two peanut butter sandwiches with sprinkles and a banana and two large bottles of water or isotonic sports drink. On the way I stop for a while to enjoy the sandwiches. In short, eating and drinking is no problem at all. A gran fondo like the Marmotte where I'm on my bike for at least eight hours in a row is a bit different. It's a race anyway, so I don't want to spend too much time at the stops. Eating solid food like bars during a climb takes me out of breath and out of rhythm and in the descent I prefer to keep my hands on the handlebars. A solution is to take only gels but after a few hours of taking gels my stomach gets upset with all that sweetness. I get a little nauseous, eat less and get hungry.
And then I came across Maurten. What is Maurten and what does it do? Maurten is a sports food in the form of gels and sports drink mix. They developed the so called "hydrogel technology". Maurten adds pectin and sodium alginate to their sports drink mix. These are completely natural products and these two substances ensure that as soon as the sports drink enters your sour stomach, a hydrogel is formed. This hydrogel encapsulates the carbohydrates so your stomach doesn't really notice all that sweetness. Then the stomach is emptied towards your intestines and there the gel becomes water with carbohydrates again so they can be absorbed. Maurten claims two advantages: you don't get stomach problems because of all that sweetness and the stomach is emptied faster towards the intestines so you could absorb more carbohydrates per hour.
I myself was especially interested in the fact that you don't get stomach problems. And indeed that is the case. During the more than eight hours that I sat on my bike during the Marmotte, I didn't have any problems with my stomach. I didn't feel too full or nauseous so I could just keep eating and drinking. I used both the gels and Maurten's sports drink mix. The gels themselves use the same technique but are already gel in the bag and therefore not as liquid as the gels of other brands. You can almost chew Maurten's gel but also swallow it at once. The taste is neutral and very slightly sweet. The sports drink has the same taste and drinks easily.
If I could take more carbohydrates I haven't tried. I find it hard enough to think about taking a little one every 15 to 20 minutes. But it should be possible to take a gel from Maurten every 15 minutes. A gel contains 25 grams of carbohydrates which equals 100 kcal hence the name Gel 100. This would allow you to consume 100 grams of carbohydrates per hour. The current maximum with traditional sports drinks and gels would be 90 grams per hour. A condition for this is that your stomach is trained to process that many carbohydrates per hour. Professional cyclists, for example, are trained to process that many carbohydrates per hour.
The sports drink mix by Maurten comes in two types, the Drink Mix 160 and the Drink Mix 320. The numbers represent the number of kcal it contains. The first contains 40 grams of carbohydrates and the second 80 grams of carbohydrates. There is also a Gel 100 Caf 100, which also contains 100 mg of caffeine. As far as mixing Maurten's drinks is concerned, there is a small instruction manual. 1 sachet should be dissolved in 500 ml water, in this ratio the hydrogel technology works best. Furthermore, it must be dissolved in water that contains less than 40 mg calcium per liter. The water that comes from the tap in the Netherlands does meet this requirement. Abroad it might be a bit more difficult. Just to be on the safe side, I went to France to look for bottled water in the supermarket with <40mg/L calcium. This was a problem. All the water I could find in the small supermarket in the village Allemond had a higher calcium content. Luckily the hotel owner assured me that the water from the tap was low in calcium so I took the risk. At the stops during the Marmotte there was in some cases only spring water from the bottle. I noticed that the Drink Mix didn't dissolve as well but I had no problem with that while drinking.
Do I only use Maurten sports food from now on? The answer is a simple no. I liked it very much on a long trip and I will certainly use it again in the future if I ride a gran fondo that will last longer than 5 hours. For the shorter rides and races I just keep using the old-fashioned sweet gels. It's a price thing as well. Maurten is quite expensive. Maurten's Gel 100 costs 3.45 euros each, a bag of Drink Mix 320 costs 3.40 euros and a bag of Drink Mix 160 costs 2.40 euros. They are also available on the internet in bulk packaging of 14 and 18 pieces and then the prices are of course a bit lower.