Cyclist’s Legs After Tour De France Stages, and Why They Look Like That

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The Tour de France is regarded as the largest and one of the most gruelling sporting events in the world. Most of the race takes cyclists through France, but the course often takes in bordering countries too.

Covering a distance of around 3,500 km over 21 stages, the Tour de France is a true test of endurance. The highlight for many fans is the alpine stages, as riders race wheel to wheel in demanding terrain and dramatic backdrops.

You may have seen photos of the rider’s legs after Tour de France stages, with veins protruding from their skin, looking like tree roots. The veins alarmingly stick out as they deliver blood to the calf and thigh muscles.

But why does this happen, and should athletes be worried about it?

In this article, we will:

  • Highlight the athletes that brought the phenomenon to our attention
  • Reveal if veiny legs are the result of doping
  • Go into the factors that contribute to protruding veins in rider’s legs after tour de France stages
  • Talk about permanently Veiny legs

Get ready to learn about veiny legs!

Athletes Showing Off Their Legs After Tour De France Stages

In 2017 Paweł Poljański shocked the world by sharing photos of his legs on social media after he completed stage 16 of the tour. This triggered cycling experts and pundits to speculate and comment on what happened and why.

But Poljański isn’t the only one to have experienced this characteristic. It also happened to Canadian Antoine Duchesne, who didn’t make the selection for the tour but still managed to sport impressively toned and veiny legs.

Polish rider Tomasz Marczynski has also demonstrated that he works hard enough to get “Tour de France legs” while preparing for the race in 2019.

Are Veiny Legs A Result Of Doping?

Polish cyclist Bartosz Huzarski also revealed a photo of veiny legs after Tour de France stage 18. However, his Facebook photo caused many cycling fans to accuse Huzarski of doping. But are these allegations fair?

According to inews, U.K. vascular surgeon Eddie Chaloner quashed the online speculation that Huzarski’s swollen veins resulted from doping. He said that it is normal for an athlete of Huzarski’s level to have legs looking like this after Tour de France stages.

His comments described that the bulging veins are the result of intense training. The incredible amount of training required to ride up and down the Alps changes your body, and the protruding veins are a characteristic that some people have.

Eddie Chaloner is a surgeon at the Radiance Vein Clinic. He quoted, “The picture has got nothing to do with doping.” “If you look at pictures of other serious athletes, Cristiano Ronaldo, Andy Murray, you’ll see similar sorts of things. It’s just because of extreme training.”

Cyclists Legs After Tour De France Stages And Why They Look Like That

4 Factors That Cause Protruding Veins In Rider’s Legs After Tour de France Stages

#1: Low Level Of Body Fat

The images of cyclists’ legs after Tour de France stages are pretty extreme examples. But this is something that happens to all of us when we ride in warm weather.

One of the factors is that pro-cyclists have much lower body fat than most people. Therefore, the veins in cyclists’ legs after the Tour de France are far more prominent, as they have little or no fat to push through.

Elite cyclists have an average body fat percentage between 4 and 8%, while the average man has around 20% body fat and women 25%.

But many cyclists with low body fat percentages don’t get building veins after a ride. So there are obviously other factors involved with these incredible riders to make their legs look like a 3D road map.

Cyclists Legs After Tour De France Stages And Why They Look Like That 2

#2: Tour de France Riders Have Very Developed Blood Supply Networks

Your vascular system plays a massive part in getting veiny legs alongside your leanness. We all know that cycling is an excellent cardiovascular workout. So the intense training elite cyclists do works the vascular system to a whole new level.

The effort these athletes put in requires a large volume of oxygenated blood to be transported to their leg muscles. But the deoxygenated blood needs to be drawn out of them and back to the heart and lungs.

This need for increased blood flow causes their arteries and veins have to adapt and grow in diameter. They also dilate better so they can expand more when under pressure.

When you consider what Paweł Poljański had just done, it is hardly surprising that his leg muscles were trying to take in as much blood as possible for several hours.

When he took the photo of his legs, he had just climbed 165km from Le Puy-en-Velay to Romans-sur-Isère. Poljański was battling against blustery winds the whole way up. But he managed to cross the line just 1min 43sec behind stage winner Michael Matthews

Cyclists Legs After Tour De France Stages And Why They Look Like That 3

#3: High Blood Volume

A highly developed vascular system needs extra blood to fill the veins. The enlarged veins will not become visible through your skin without a high blood volume.

A regular person has about five liters of blood flowing around their body. This equates to around 50-75 ml per kilogram or 5-7% of body mass. An elite Tour de France cyclist might have 7-8 liters, as much as 150 ml per kilo, or 15% of body mass.

Therefore, these world-class athletes have nearly twice the amount of blood coursing around their bulging veins as everyone else.

So the fact that the veins are fuller causes them to be more visible in their legs after Tour de France stages. Therefore it is no wonder why the veins in cyclists’ legs after Tour de France stages look like they could burst at any second.

#4: The Blood Filtration Process

There is a final factor that affects how a racer’s legs look after Tour de France stages. During exercise, your blood pressure increases; this forces plasma fluid into pockets that surround your muscles.

When this happens, your muscles swell and harden, and is known as blood filtration. This swelling pushes the veins in your legs closer to the surface of your skin.

This is the same thing that happens when you see bodybuilders with veiny biceps after a heavy workout in the gym.

Cyclists Legs After Tour De France Stages And Why They Look Like That 4

Should Your Legs Become Veiny After A Ride?

The aesthetic look of these veiny legs after Tour de France stages divide opinion. Some people think they look cool, while others are horrified. But there is no doubt that anyone that gets to this point deserves respect.

If you want your legs to look like those of a Tour de France rider, you have to increase the intensity of your training. However, you need to realize that most cyclists will never reach those kinds of levels, so you need to keep your expectations realistic.

As you train for your cycling or for an event, it is a good idea to keep an eye on how your legs start to transform. You will be able to see progress, and when you notice some veins becoming visible, you know you are on your way to improved fitness and reduced body fat.

It is worth knowing that not everyone has the genetics to bring those veins to the surface. Some people are naturally more veiny than others, so don’t be disappointed if you don’t see much of a change.

Cyclists Legs After Tour De France Stages And Why They Look Like That 5

But What If I Don’t Want Veiny Legs?

As we have established, cycling stimulates your calf muscles and gets your blood pumping, which promotes your veins bulging from your legs. But not everyone wants their legs to look like this, which may put them off riding their bikes and not experiencing cycling’s other benefits.

The possibility of getting “Tour de France legs” should not stop you from riding your bike. Those cyclists who develop veiny legs have been riding incredibly long distances for many years. They will have spent more time in the saddle than an average person could ever manage.

If you ride shorter distances, commute, or compete in the occasional cycling race or triathlon, your legs will not be put under the same stress. Therefore, you are unlikely to get bulging veins in your legs.

As we have established, most people need to work exceptionally hard to get their legs to look like Paweł Poljański’s after Tour de France stages.

But if you do start to develop veiny legs and want to combat it, you can ease the symptoms by stimulating circulation. To do this, you may want to wear compression socks while you ride, as they are very good at increasing blood flow around your legs.

Now You Know Why Cyclist’s Legs Go Veiny After Tour de France Stages

So even though the Tour de France riders’ photos are shocking, there is nothing to worry about or anything untoward going on. It is just a result of intense training and effort.

If you want to learn more about improving your cycling fitness, check out the links below:

What Muscles Does Biking Work?

FTP Test: What Is Functional Threshold Power

Does Cycling Make Your Legs Bigger?

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Tom is an experienced freelance cycling journalist and mountain biking expert who competed nationally in the junior ranks. Now based in the world-famous mountain biking destination of Morzine in the French Alps, Tom spends his summers shredding off-road trails by bike and his winters on the same mountains on a snowboard.

1 thought on “Cyclist’s Legs After Tour De France Stages, and Why They Look Like That”

  1. I am a physician (MD/PhD), a dedicated road cyclist and a life-long athlete. I never even think about veins and arteries. Surely, vessels become more prominent with exercise. But what makes a cyclist’s legs look so great is the muscles, muscle tone and the muscle definition. Look at any great star – Greg Lemond, Miguel Indurain, Bernard Hinault, Laurent Fignon, many others – and you will see bulky, massive, strong muscles, especially in the quadriceps femoris group which functions to extend the leg after it flexes at the knee (rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, vastus intermedius), as when you are pedaling. That’s what looks great. Some of the people who had the most impressive legs were the old eastern block bike sprinters who were using a lot of anabolic steroids. Caleb Ewan of Australia is another guy with amazing naturally great leg muscles.


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