Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spain) of Team Katusha lost the 2012 Vuelta a Espa?a after the second rest day.
He hates rest days. After leading the Vuelta for 13 days, when Alberto Contador (Spain) of Team Saxo Bank Tinkoff Bank attacked on the big ring climb on Stage 17, Rodriguez couldn't follow. He lost the red jersey and finished third on the podium in Madrid.
Tony Martin (Germany) helped power Team Omega Pharma-Quick Step to gold in the men's team time trial at the 2012 world championship. Taylor Phinney (USA) helped BMC Racing Team take silver. Three days later Martin had recovered fully and won the individual time trial, retaining his rainbow jersey. Phinney had also recovered well and took silver, just five seconds back. What can we learn from how pro riders recover?
During the Tour de France, Bradley Wiggins and Team Sky emphasized good recovery, including warming down on rollers after each stage. Don't just hammer to the garage after a training ride. Spin easily for the last 10 to 15 minutes.
You burn a combination of glycogen from carbohydrate and fat for fuel when you ride, and the harder you ride the more of your energy comes from glycogen. You only have enough glycogen for several hours of hard riding. You may deplete your glycogen stores on a fast ride.
Pro racers have burned all their fuel and start eating carbs in the team bus even before they shower. As you come to the end of a ride, finish any food you are carrying with you. When you get off the bike eat two calories of carbohydrate per pound of body weight every hour until you can sit down for a regular meal. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should eat 300 calories of carbohydrate every hour.
Pick foods that you like—sports bars are no better than crackers or pretzels for example—and read the label to be sure you are getting enough calories from carbohydrate. Many foods contain a mix of carbohydrate, protein and fat—you're after calories from carbohydrate. Protein after a ride doesn't help you recover faster. You need a little protein to rebuild muscles; however, you can get that in your regular meals.