It all starts with my grandmother, who left me with these parting words:
"Florence Nightingale said, 'Live your Life while you have it. Life is a splendid gift — there is nothing small about it.' That is something I have always tried to do, and I hope my enthusiasm for Life will give you a purpose to do the same."
I can still hear her voice. Her accent switched from 'queen's finest' to 'cockney' when I was in trouble. She was a working-class hero who always saw the best in people and travelled the world on two wheels.
Nan bought her first bike in 1949 from Algurn Cycles in Wandsworth. It cost my great grandfather £35, and it's still hanging in my dad's garage. Cycling was an escape for young people in post-war Britain, much like it has become a welcome escape throughout the pandemic.
She met my grandfather at a local cycling club. Every weekend, he'd cycle home from his RAF base in Wiltshire (140km each way) to see her and spend the weekend racing at Herne Hill and Brands Hatch — fuelled on nan's home bakes.
I wear one of grandad's medals from the year they met. Its presence has often felt otherworldly.
My parents met at a roller-racing event in Peckham. Naturally, dad inherited cycling from my grandparents, while my mum picked up a bike to escape a dysfunctional household.
My schoolmates would come back from the summer holidays boasting about their trip to Disneyland while I went cyclo-touring across the UK, camped in the pouring rain, drank river water and lived off flapjacks. But I'd have it no other way.
My cycling, nutrition and career journey
The hook sank deeper after the British cycling boom in 2012 when Sir Brad Wiggins won the Tour de France, and Team GB dominated the home Olympics. I worked at Sky News & Sports, which led to an opportunity to lead the creative outputs for Team Sky and British Cycling.
Working with my cycling heroes and their performance, business & management teams opened my mind to a wealth of knowledge.
Like most health-conscious people, I strive for continuous improvement. Therefore, I fell for every sports supplement advert you can imagine. You know, when big-name brands promise to make us mortals 'superhuman' with their latest scientific compounds. However, at Team Sky and British Cycling, I quickly realised that my perception of how a professional athlete fuelled was entirely wrong.
Becoming 'superhuman' (the best version of yourself) comes from within. First, it's about committing to a goal. Then, it simply takes time, effort, passion for what you do, and consistently making good choices with your training, nutrition, recovery and wellbeing.
During training camps, nutritionists, and chefs prepared our meals. For breakfast, we ate porridge and omelettes, rice cakes packed by hand in neat foil parcels, and smoothies full of fruit and vegetables. There was barely a scientific-looking sports supplement in sight — the team prioritised real food, as it's naturally packed with delicious energy, is easier to digest, full of flavour and macro/micronutrients, vitamins, amino acids, etc.
Products like energy gels were reserved for the pointy end of racing — as you can swallow lots of carbohydrates in a single mouthful, which is essential when you're gasping for oxygen. However, most gels are full of gelling agents, acidity regulators and preservatives — which can cause stomach upsets and digestion issues (a contradiction of athlete wellbeing).
By 2014, I had adopted Team Sky's ‘food first philosophy', and prepared all of my meals with natural ingredients. As a result, my fitness, wellbeing, skin, hair, lean muscle mass, gut health, immune system and energy levels improved dramatically. Data does not lie. My resting heart rate, lack of illness, sleep, and power-to-weight ratio entered new realms.
However, despite my learnings, I became trapped in a "high power + low weight = fast cyclist" mindset — to push beyond my limits and try to replicate the pro aesthetic. As a result, I prioritised losing weight above building power, to the point of becoming powerless — a story for another time, but this taught me to "fuel and train" and not to "diet and exercise."
Fuelling and training builds a strong, healthy body and mind — you can measure improvements to ensure you are on the right path.
Previously, I prepared on-bike food myself, such as date and nut butter energy balls or Team Sky's rice cakes because I like to reach into my back pocket mid-ride and eat something that lifts me. So, with Veloforte, I found delicious products (far better than my own) that align with my natural-nutrition values and a brand that is at the precipice of creating a long-overdue real food revolution in the sporting/active lifestyle world.
My favourite Veloforte products are the anytime energy bars, an evolution of panforte, a traditional Italian speciality made with fruits, nuts, honey, and spices - from the Tuscan province of Siena, home of one of my favourite races, the Strade Bianche.
Every time I bite into a Veloforte Classico bar, my flavour receptors transport me back to the finish line of the Strade Bianche in Siena’s stunning Piazza del Campo — where I sat eating panforte and drinking coffee while soaking up the view.
I am also a big fan of Veloforte's revolutionary energy gels and chews, as they are packed with real fruit and natural electrolytes, addressing the need for a mouthful of highly concentrated carbs during intense exercise — without any nasties or digestive issues.
Sky withdrew cycling sponsorships in 2019 (Team Sky became Ineos and British Cycling HSBC). Our purpose was hugely fulfilling — "To win the world's greatest bike races and inspire millions to take up cycling." However, by losing this sense of purpose, I felt I had lost a part of myself and my position within the cycling community.
Since then, I have worked within Sky's sporting, corporate, charitable, societal, and environmental initiatives. As a result, I have grown personally and professionally. Still, I have been searching for that same sense of fulfilment.
That is why I'm thrilled to announce that I am joining Veloforte, not only as a proud ambassador but as Creative Director. I promise to lead by example and use my experience to campaign Veloforte's real food revolution to athletes worldwide, at all levels, so that they can #fuelbetter and achieve more.
Thanks for reading.
Gareth Winter @garethwinter
Veloforte Creative Director and Team Veloforte Ambassador