How Do Tour de France Riders Pee?
The cyclists in the Tour de France ride over 100 kilometres almost every day, climb massive mountains, descend at warp speed down twisty pavement, and finish it all off with a furious sprint. With the hours on hours they spend in the saddle every day, we’re curious about one simple thing: How do these riders pee?
If you’ve ever been well hydrated on a ride longer than three hours, nature has probably called – and she doesn’t like to be ignored. So what do you do when you’re riding at around 40 kilometres per hour in a race with 200 other riders and you’ve got to go?
In the Tour and many other big races, the race leader (in this case, the guy wearing the yellow jersey) is king. If he has to go, he can call a bathroom break whenever he desires, says Stephen Hall, a professional track and criterium cyclist and a stage winner at the 2015 Tour of Thailand. If that happens, a bathroom break is like an oasis in the desert – you take advantage of it when you see it. The peloton will slow up a bit out of respect for the race leader, and you’ll pull over to the side of the road. Once your business is finished, you’ll work together to navigate back to pack.
Retired pro cyclist Ted King, who’s ridden the Tour de France several times, confirms Hall’s account. When the pace is more leisurely, “riders pull to the side of the road, pull their shorts down just like you would underwear – you know, pull front down, do your business,” he says. During a neutral roll out, King says there’s plenty of time to catch back on to the peloton before the race starts in earnest.
Once the pace picks up, riders still use this tactic to pee while racing. “It’s a lot easier to wait for a lull in the race when a big fraction of the peloton pulls to the side of the road rather than doing it solo, because that solo chase is tough!” he adds.
But nature calling doesn’t mean riders even have to slow down. If there’s no break in sight, some riders will gather up teammates to give them a push while they go from the bike. (Too much information? Maybe, but now you’ll know why riders sometimes look awkward when they’re coasting.) “If peeing to the right, your right leg is in a 6 o’clock position, left at 12. Left hand on the handlebars, right hand holds the shorts down, and coast while relieving yourself,” King says.
Alternatively, riders will sprint off the front and get ahead of the peloton to take a break. That way, by the time they’re done, the field has caught up, and they’re ready to join back in.
You can always stop at the side of the road, but make sure you’re out of view of spectators or you risk getting fined like retired Belgian rider Johan Vansummeren, who was fined three different times for urinating in front of fans in 2010. Plus, you’ll waste time and energy making up time through the team cars. “Generally speaking, you’re better off peeing down your leg than using too much energy flapping around in the convoy,” Hall says.
If you’re anticipating being in a race situation where you’ll need a bathroom break, Hall recommends practicing peeing during descents to avoid stage fright come race time. And don’t think not drinking is going to get you off the hook; if you try that, you’ll have to deal with a wealth of other issues related to dehydration.
For the rest of us, if it’s just a training ride, there’s no need to pee on your bike. Just convince the group to slow down and wait for you while you dart behind a tree. Best case scenario: You route your training rides with adequate bathroom stops along the way!