It is the wee hours of this morning as I sit at my laptop, posting pics of the Tour de France whilst at the same time watching the concluding kilometres of Stage 17 of the 2014 Tour.
I am amazed that so many people gather and wait for so long just to see the riders pass by. . .
A little seen sight on the television coverage, one sometimes referred to as un besoin naturel ("a natural need")
Question: Don't riders have to urinate during a six-hourrace?
Answer: Yes, and they do. Shortly after the start, they often stop en masse --- in English, all together --- at the side of the road. In the heat of battle, riders often urinate while continuing to race, i.e. as they pedal along without stopping.. If they do this in a populated area and are seen by the many officials who monitor the race, they are fined.
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What happens when marathon cyclists need to urinate during a race? Multi-part question follows.
Watching the men's marathon race in Beijing yesterday and knowing very little about the sport, I saw a bunch of male cyclists stop for a wizz on the side of the road at one point. Google also tells me that cyclists may also just wet themselves while riding, which is not fun for the people riding behind them. A friend told me that good riders know how to pee without getting their bike wet, which is apparently a bad thing to do (wetting the bike that is). My questions are:
1. Is it more common for riders to stop for a wee or just do it on the fly?
2. Where does weeing on the fly sit in the realm of okay-ness? What are the rules of etiquette in a marathon race situation?
3. If some riders stop but others wet themselves, how is this fair in the race?
4. When a bunch of riders do stop for it, how to they maintain their racing order? How do they all decide they're going to do it?
5. This is the most important question: what happens for female riders? How would they be able to stop and go on the roadside? How would they wet themselves while riding without getting the bike funky?
6. What sort of damage, if any, is done to a urine soaked bike?
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I'm not a world-class cyclist -- I race at the sub-pro level -- but I have done enough long races to be able to answer your questions with some firsthand experience.
1. Both, depending on the situation. If the peloton is really going -- say, chasing down a breakaway or something -- you can roll up your shorts and hang on to a teammate and actually pee off to the side of the bike. More commonly, though, when the race is quiet and the pace not too high, a few riders will just pull briefly to the side of the road, do what they need to do, and then work together to get back into the bunch. In really big, long races, like stages of the Tour de France, sometimes the almost whole peloton will take a brief break to pee.
2. Totally part of the sport. In the US, public urination is against the rules and can get you disqualified, but the officials are usually understanding if you exercise discretion and don't do this when spectators are around. Obviously, if you pee on the fly, you need to get to the side of the road so you don't pee on other riders, which is NOT ok.
3. This doesn't generally happen and it's not really a matter of fairness. If you're in a position where stopping or not might cause you to lose the race, and you had to go badly enough, you'd just go and deal with it. But that's a pretty rare situation.
4. In a long race, racing 'order' is not relevant. If you're in the bunch it really doesn't matter if you're number 10 or number 30, it's easy to move up or move back (if, say, you want to get out of the wind and therefore do less work, you'd go to the back, if you want to challenge for a sprint or drive the pace, you'd go to the front of the bunch). You just stop, pee, then work your way back into the group.
5. This is a bigger problem for women than men, obviously. But women's races are generally much shorter than men's races, so the need to pee is less of an issue.
6. None. But bikes do not become urine-soaked because you generally do not pee ON your bike, you pee FROM your bike.
One other thing to remember is that in many races peeing is even less of an issue because it's often hot enough that it's hard to stay hydrated, no matter how much you drink. So you just don't have to pee.
The Cofidis rider on the right goes on the fly while his team mates assist by keeping up the cycling momentum
This year's Tour also saw a light plane travel on the ground in green fields adjacent to the peloton for quite a distance and time. It looked like it was speeding up the runaway to take off but it remained on the ground.
You also get the nasty spectators.
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