Never has the grueling toll that Tour de France takes on the human body been as graphically and gruesomely captured as it was by a Polish cyclist who had just completed the 16th stage of the 21-stage race.
Pawel Poljanski, a domestique for the German team Bora-Hansgrohe, took a moment to share a photo of his tanned and sunburned legs, which with bulging veins that left him looking like an AAA TripTik, Tuesday on Instagram. In perhaps one of the larger understatements, he wrote, “After sixteen stages I think my legs look little tired.”
Well, yes. Such are the consequences of competing in a 2,200-mile race that includes stages through the Alps. Still, the Internet suffered a collective freakout over the image. “Oh, hell no,” one user responded. Another wrote: “Why? Wh, whhh, whyyy?” And another added, “That can’t be healthy.”
But it is to be expected.
“The amount of blood that we get normally going down to our legs is five liters per minute, for anyone at rest. For an untrained athlete, their maximum exercise will have 20 liters per minute flowing through the muscles,” Bradley Launikonis, who heads the muscle research lab at the University of Queensland, told Australia’s ABC. “One of these elite cyclists will have double that, about 40 liters per minute. They have massive volumes of blood moving through. After he’s finished exercising, the veins are showing up. Blood flow is pressurized through the arteries in a highly regulated fashion. What we’re seeing are the veins, and there’s a lot less pressure in them.”
In 2014, Poland’s Bartosz Huzarski shared a photo of his legs and was quickly accused of doping.
“For me, it’s totally not a revelation because I can see this view — maybe not every day — but still often, especially after a hard race at high temperature,” he wrote on Facebook. “People write and think different things, ‘that is impossible’, ‘that is not normal’, ‘it is unhealthy’, refer to doping, etc.
“Of course, I will not have legs like Victoria’s Secret models, or Mary from the nearby vegetable shop, or anyone working in an office who does a 10-km bike ride or an hour run three times a week. This, what you see in the picture … is not unhealthy.”