Are cyclists under-fuelling to breaking point?

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Chronic under-fuelling may be endemic among cyclists, according to research — and if so, we’re storing up a bone health timebomb

“I’n the lead-up to the European age-group duathlon championships, I hurt my leg,” says 53-year-old Doug Bentall, recalling his 2016 season. “I thought I’d pulled a muscle, and somehow got round the race with the injury.”

Bentall, a PR man from Tonbridge, Kent, had returned to cycling in his late 40s, having raced as a younger man, and made solid progress to a sub-23min 10-mile time trial. He decided to give duathlon a try after his wife Bridget pointed to her collection of rosettes from equestrian events and jokingly challenged him: “When are you going to win something?”

Duathlon seemed to provide his best chance of levelling up the matrimonial palmarès.

“It turned out I was a much better runner then I am cyclist,” he says. “In duathlon, you can make up a hell of a lot of time on the cyclists who aren’t such good runners — I was chuffed.”

However, his high hopes came crashing down as the pain persisted, eventually compelling a visit to the GP. “I was referred to a specialist, who diagnosed a stress fracture in my pelvis,” recalls Bentall. “Tests showed I had a really low vitamin D and would need months of rehab. I haven’t run since.”

A few months after his diagnosis, Bentall spotted in CW a call from Dr Nicky Keay for participants to take part in a bone density study. He put himself forward and in early 2017 had his first DEXA scan, the most accurate means of measuring bone health. “I took a deep breath when I sat down to hear the results,” says Bentall, “and they revealed my lower spine is in the osteoporotic range.”

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