You may not have heard of Polish cyclist Pawel Poljanski, but there’s a chance you won’t forget his legs in a hurry.
Poljanski has just finished the 16th stage of this year’s Tour de France, and he has posted a snap of his legs out of the lycra on social media following the gruelling physical test.
And the results, for the uninitiated, are not pretty.
“After sixteen stages I think my legs look little tired,” the cyclist posted on Instagram, alongside a photo of his veiny, sunburnt limbs.
The Bora-Hansgrohe rider is currently 75th in the general classification, after finishing 66th in the 16th stage between Le Puy-en-Velay and Romans-sur-Isere.
A post shared by Paweł Poljański (@p.poljanski) on
Of course, cyclists posting the after-effects of Tour de France stages on social media is nothing new. Current Tour de France leader Chris Froome showed off his circulatory system in a Team Sky post back in 2014.
It seems every time cyclists show off their pulsating limbs, however, accusations of doping get bandied about, thanks to the sport’s shady past.
Cyclist has to fend off inevitable doping remarks
Another Polish cyclist, Bartosz Huzarski, copped plenty of online shade when he posted a photo of his veiny legs after the 18th stage in the 2014 Tour.
— Team Sky 🚲 (@TeamSky) April 23, 2014
Huzarski was forced to hit back at the claims, saying the veiny legs were totally normal for cyclists who have to endure such long distances.
“For me it’s totally not a revelation, because I can see this view — maybe not everyday — but still often, especially after a hard race at high temperature,” Huzarski said on his Facebook page.
“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 10km bike ride or an hour run three times a week.
“This, what you see in the picture … is not unhealthy.”
So why do cyclists’ legs look like this?
Dr Bradley Launikonis from the University of Queensland’s School of Biomedical Science said elite cyclists experienced double the blood flow to their legs compared to recreational exercisers.
The arteries transport blood rapidly to the leg muscles that require oxygen, but due to the cyclist pushing himself to the extreme, the blood pools in the veins after having massive amounts of blood in the legs for a long period of time.
“The amount of blood that we get normally going down to our legs is five litres per minute, for anyone at rest. For an untrained athlete, their maximum exercise will have 20 litres per minute flowing through the muscles,” he said.
“One of these elite cyclists will have double that, about 40 litres per minute. They have massive volumes of blood moving through.
“After he’s finished exercising, the veins are showing up. Blood flow is pressurised through the arteries in a highly regulated fashion.
“What we’re seeing [through the skin] are the veins, and there’s a lot less pressure in them [than arteries].
“The blood can pool there and that’s what’s happening in this extreme case. There is blood pooling in his veins which is why you’re seeing them [so visibly].
“There’s a high level of blood being pushed into his legs for long periods of time, and it’s still in there post-exercise.
“It’s not going to happen to someone who’s doing recreational exercise. It’s clearly something that’s only going to happen in elite athletes, like these guys riding in massive cycling events.”