Polish cyclist Pawel Poljanski has recently been in news for the graphic image of his veiny legs after completing the 16-stage of this year’s Tour de France. “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 finished the race by securing the 66th position, making his current standing at No. 75 in the general classification. Other Tour de France cyclists have been in the news previously for similar posts. Though these might look frightful to the uninitiated, Cyclist Bartosz Huzarski said in a 2014 Facebook post that “… 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.”

After sixteen stages I think my legs look little tired 😬 #tourdefrance

A post shared by Paweł Poljański (@p.poljanski) on

So why do cyclists’ legs look like this?

Dr Bradley Launikonis from the University of Queensland’s School of Biomedical Science told ABC Network that elite cyclists experienced double the blood flow to their legs compared to recreational exercisers. The routine functioning of the body involves the arteries transporting blood rapidly to the leg muscles that require oxygen. But in the case of cyclists who are pushing themselves to the extreme, the blood starts pooling in the veins after having massive amounts of blood being pushed to the legs for such a long period of time.

“The amount of blood that normally goes 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,” he said.

“But elite cyclists will have double that amount, somewhere about 40 liters per minute.” Now, that’s a lot of blood and it’s no wonder that  after an athlete finishes their exercise, there is a noticeable the popping of veins due to the pressure that builds up in the arteries. “What we’re seeing through the skin are the veins, and there’s a lot less pressure in them than arteries.”

But if you think that a 5K duathlon is going to make your legs look any less sexier, Dr. Bradley doesn’t seem to think so. He says, “It’s not going to happen to someone who’s doing recreational exercise. It’s clearly something that’s only going to happen to elite athletes, like these guys riding in massive cycling events.”


Main Image Courtesy – Pawel Poljanski on Instagram

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