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Pro rider to team staff member is a well-trodden road in the peloton, but few make the switch to the roll of team nutritionist.
Shara Marche (neé Gillow) is one of the very few who has made the move after retiring at the end of the 2020 season following a 10-year career.
She now works for the SD Worx team as its resident “food coach,” or nutritionist to everyone else.
“It just happened really fast, actually. Yeah, it happened really fast,” Marche told VeloNews. “As soon as my contract had ended, within a couple of days, I was flying to Spain working with the team. It was a really fast transition but it all fell together.
“It’s been so different on the other side from a different perspective, but it’s also nice. Being able to relate to the cyclists because you being a professional for so many years you know what they want.”
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Looking at her social media, there can be little surprise that Marche turned to food in her post-racing career.
Her Twitter and Instagram feeds are full of delicious-looking dishes that are enough to make even the fullest of people tempted for a treat.
Marche will join a larger backroom staff at SD Worx next year with Anna van der Breggen taking the more traditional transition from pro rider to sport director.
Lars Boom came on board toward the end of last year as the team manager, while Chantal van den Broek-Blaak will become a sport director when she retires following the classics this spring.
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Marche’s role is at races, where she can guide what the riders eat to ensure they have the energy to race. She is a rarity in women’s cycling at this time, not just because of her racing background, with small budgets limiting the variety of auxiliary roles.
“Sometimes the simplest of things that it’s so nice to have,” she said. “Sometimes we’re at the mercy of the hotels and, a lot of the times, food is really bad.
“It’s so nice if you can have someone there who can make good, nutritious food, especially if it’s stage races. It’s something that we’re really lucky to have in women’s cycling. So, to bring that across — it’s been really cool.”
Marche was a professional rider from 2011, after making the step up with the Bizkaia-Durango squad. During her time, she raced with top teams such as Orica-AIS, Rabo Liv, and FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine-Futuroscope.
She is a four-time Australian national time trial champion and has won stages of the Giro d’Italia, Giro del Trentino, and the Santos Women’s Tour Down Under. She racked up top-10 placings at La Course, Flèche Wallonne, and Strade Bianche.
Her passion for food has been there for a long time and, throughout her career, she was interested in how she could use it to help her racing.
“I’ve always been crazy with my nutrition on the bike as a rider,” she said. “Anybody who knew me very well on the peloton knew that I was like 100 percent always wanting to feel really well. I was always really big into it.
“You do so much training and so many hours a week that if you eat really bad food you’re not fueling yourself properly. Then your performance is not going to be 100 percent.”
While her job title is “food coach” Marche does a whole lot more at the team when she is at races.
In the cycling world, there’s no such thing as “not in my job description” — the only people who can say that are usually the riders — and staff members often have to pitch in with odd jobs.
Marche is no exception to that rule and she’s happy to get stuck into any job that needs doing, and sometimes she’s able to use her vast racing knowledge while she does it.
“I have been actually doing a few different things. If I’m finished with my job, I always usually go and help where I can, but that’s just me because I love helping,” she told VeloNews. “If I’ve finished with the day, then I go and help in other areas where I can.
“Whether it’s driving your car behind the team, doing a bit of sport directing, helping out with a little bit of the media. I love helping the mechanics even wash the cars.”