Tour de France curiosities unpacked: veiny legs, long rides on “rest” days and cola consumption explained

The 2022 edition of the Tour de France is off to a good start – and if you’ve been following the action of the race there are probably quite a few points that could have piqued your curiosity. That’s to be expected – there’s a lot behind the scenes that the cameras don’t capture.

Google’s autocorrect can give us a wealth of insight into the general public’s deepest thoughts about the pros. For example, there seem to be enough people desperately looking for “how do cyclists pee during the Tour de France?”. that the search engine offers this suggestion to everyone.

Naturally, we couldn’t leave them hanging, and our answer to exactly how cyclists pee during high-level racing can be found here. There’s also an almost dizzying array of other issues, which we’re going to delve into completely here.

We’ll look at Tour de France performance trends and, continuing past the finish line, we’ll also reveal what the riders do in their team buses and talk more about how the pros handle hotel life. at hotel. that make up the three weeks of a Grand Tour.

For answers to other Tour de France questions, be sure to pick up a copy of the July 21 edition of Cycling Weekly magazine. (opens in a new tab)

Why are the legs of Tour de France cyclists so veiny?

We all have veins in our legs quite close to the surface of the skin, but they are hidden by a layer of fat just under the skin.

The legs of Tour de France cyclists appear to be very veiny for two main reasons: first, they have much less body fat than “regular” people, and second, their veins and arteries have adapted to carry more blood around them. their body. Cardiovascular adaptations are numerous, but a large increase in the diameter of veins and arteries is one of them. You can read more about the science behind why Tour de France riders’ legs are so veiny here.

What do Tour de France riders do on their rest days?

They roll, and not just a short stroll through the streets. Most will be on their bikes for two hours and some even longer.

At the start of Team Sky, Russell Downing found out why after the first rest day of his Grand Tour debut in the 2011 Giro d’Italia: “It was a tough race, the weather was bad and the first rest day, I was really tired. The others asked me if I was going with them, but it was cold and raining and I said I was going to use the turbo in the basement of the hotel instead. I did it for about 45 minutes, very easy, then came back up to lay down. The next day I was nailed for the whole stage, just hooked. I was fine the next day, but learned my lesson and rode with the boys the next day off. If you don’t ride hard enough on a rest day, your body thinks you’ve stopped and shuts down, ready for a deep recovery. You have to keep it on for the whole three weeks.

The image shows Wout van Aert's rest day on the Tour de France.

(Image credit: Strava)

Why do Tour de France riders drink Coca-Cola?

Most team nutritionists would prefer that riders not drink coca cola, and some teams even ban it.

That said, there is also always a small can of coke in the haversacks that Trek-Segafredo offers its riders. Drinking a regular soft drink like a can of coke after a stage is good for morale – and maintaining positivity in a brutal three-week race is vital.

Of course, the most important nutritional consideration for runners is getting enough calories to meet the extreme demands of running. If you’re wondering how they do that, here we take a look at exactly what’s going on to power Tour de France riders.

How light and lean are the Tour de France climbers?

Double stage winner of the Tour de France, the recently retired Irish professional rider Dan Martin was a climbing specialist. His race weight was 62kg, which is light for his 5ft 9in height, but some shorter climbers weigh less than 60kg. However, being super-light is no longer the prerogative of pure climbing specialists. The reigning Tour Pogacar champion is the same height as Martin and only slightly heavier at around 66kg, while 2019 winner Egan Bernal, also 5ft 9in, is a true featherweight at just 60kg.

The riders mentioned begin the Tour de France with body fat percentages well below 10%, but nutritionists are careful not to let the “cut” go too far.

In fact, it may be better to offload some muscle, as explained by Dr. Rob Child, a performance biochemist who has worked with several World Tour teams: “Sometimes it is worth losing a little muscle to lose weight, because very low body fat is beneficial to health. repercussions. Tour de France performance is governed by the cardiovascular system, not the maximum force applied to the pedals. Professional riders don’t need huge amounts of muscle to pedal at 400 watts for 20 or 30 minutes, and that’s often the key to performing well throughout the Tour. They need a highly developed cardiovascular system, not big muscles.

The image shows Tom Pidcock climbing an ascent.

(Image credit: Getty Images: Michael Steele)

What is a healer in cycling and what are his functions during the Tour de France?

Soigneur is the French word for “healer,” and essentially soigneurs take care of the riders. They prepare them for each stage, take care of them on arrival and when they return to the hotel, with massages and rehabilitation therapies. And they care in other ways too.

Dirk Nachtergaele, trainer for the Belgian professional team for more than 40 years, says: “A trainer is also like a priest. We are the ones riders can confide in, convinced that everything they tell us goes no further. They can complain about another rider, even the sports director; they can talk about problems at home – anything. They know we won’t tell anyone what they said. This role of confidant is as necessary in a team as being a qualified therapist.

What do Tour de France riders do to recover between stages?

The standard of hotels used by the Tour has improved a lot in recent years, which helps with sleep and recovery. Even so, teams provide more “home comfort” by carrying all their own bedding, including mattresses and pillows. They also have their own washing machines in team buses and equipment trucks. Everything is done to promote good sleep and hygiene habits.

Riders generally practice roommates, partly out of tradition but also because it’s good to have company. Pairings, however, are decided diplomatically.

To read the full feature that answers:

– What FTP and watts per kilo does it take to be a GC candidate?

– Do the runners drink alcohol during the three weeks?

– What is the weight of the heaviest runners in the race and how do they climb the mountains in the given time?

– And many other questions…!

Pick up the July 21 edition of Cycling Weekly magazine. It will be on sale now in newsagents, supermarkets and online (opens in a new tab). If you want more content like this, you can subscribe, save on cover price (opens in a new tab) and have it delivered every Thursday.