Move over Victoria Secret’s angels and their impossibly long legs, say hello to polish cyclist Pawel Poljanski, whose gams have caused mouths to metaphorically drop in the past 24 hours.
The 27-year-old year-old, who’s competing in the Tour de France, posted a picture of his muscular legs and pulsating veins on social media, stating that after cycling 16 stages in the event, his legs looked “a little tired”.
That’s quite possibly one of the biggest understatements of 2017.
The shocking sight of the cyclist’s bulging veins has gone viral across the world, sparking the question: what could have possibly caused this?
While many fans have claimed that the bulging veins are due to doping, experts have refuted this, saying that it is a normal bodily reaction to the extreme pressures of professional long-distance cycling in summer and through a challenging course.
Dr Paul Hannah, a vein expert from the Venus Centre Vein Clinic in Brisbane, says that there is nothing to worry about Poljanski’s legs or his health.
“I think he has normal veins that have simply been under extreme pressure from having to carry lots of blood through his legs, so consequently, they’re very dilated,” explains Dr Hannah.
“It’s not surprising that will have stayed dilated for a few hours.”
Undergoing such vigorous exercise means that the body must increased blood flow to cope with the extra demand. Blood normally flows through the legs about one litre per leg, per minute, but that can increase up to 10 times during excessive demand, causing the veins to swell.
Dr Hannah explains one of the reasons that the veins look so alarming is because of Poljanski’s lack of body fat; body fat would normally hide any extra blood flow going through veins.
He adds that cyclists such as Poljanski faced no larger risk of developing varicose veins that anyone else; he said that hairdressers, who are standing in the one spot for hours at a time, are much more likely to develop the condition.
One of the reasons that the veins look so alarming is because of Poljanski’s lack of body fat; body fat would normally hide any extra blood flow going through veins.
Pictures of cyclists’ engorged muscles are not new, but the sight of Poljanski’s legs shocked many Tour de France fans, some of whom described them as “freaky” and even “gruesome”. Others were more concerned with his patchy sunburn.
It’s not the first time that a Tour de France competitor has posted alarming photos of their legs following a big race. In 2014, fellow Polish cyclists Bartosz Huzarski faced criticism for his extremely muscular and veiny legs, after having raced a whooping 145.5km in the 18th stage of the race. He strongly rejected claims that his body was unhealthy.
“People write and think different things, ‘that is impossible’, ‘that is not normal’, ‘it is unhealthy’, refer to doping, etc,” he said. “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.”
Cycling can dramatically change a person’s body, including reducing body fat, increased strength in the legs and chest, biceps, triceps and shoulders.
Professional cyclists are known for their punishing training and putting their bodies to the absolute limit. But other than almost comically-large veins, other unexpected side impacts can include a runny nose, itching, ‘brain fog’, a metallic taste in the mouth, a tingly sensation in the fingers and what’s been dubbed ‘racer cough’.
The Tour de France is known as one of the toughest endurance sporting events on earth, covering about 3,500 kilometres.
Poljanski is riding for Bora–Hansgrohe and was ranked 66th at the 16th stage between Le Puy-en-Velay and Romans-sur-Isere.
Love the story? You can follow the author on Twitter.
You can watch Tour de France every stage, every night LIVE and exclusive on SBS. Find out more about how to watch.