How do pro female cyclists pee during a long road race?
Jul 30, 2023
Caelum Blackburn
by Caelum Blackburn

An Introduction to the Intricacies of Professional Cycling

As insignificant as it may sound, the topic of how professional female cyclists handle nature's call during a long race is both intriguing and crucial. I mean, they don’t just strap a diaper under their riding gear or risk losing valuable time by stopping every time the urge hits, right? See, it's not exactly a standard dinner conversation, and it's certainly not something broadcasted on ESPN, but it does have its logistical complexities.

Cycling, especially at a professional level, demands not just physical prowess but also tactical strategies for handling various aspects unique to the sport. It's about dealing with bike mechanics, weather changes, nutrition, hydration, and yes, addressing biological needs. And when it's about female cyclists, it's even more significant due to physiological differences and social standards. As peculiar as it may seem, sometimes it's these little things that can make a difference between the podium or the peloton. Stick around, and you might learn something!

The Need to Pee and Cycling – What's the Connection?

Staying hydrated is a non-negotiable for any endurance athlete. It's as crucial as functioning muscles and clear vision. Consuming enough fluids before and during the race helps keep things running smoothly and avoiding dehydration-induced fatigue. Given the duration and exertion of a bike race, consumption can tip at 500-1000 ml of fluid per hour. Naturally, what goes in, has to come out. But how they manage this need while maintaining their high-speed stride often remains unseen to many.

'Pulling a Paniagua'

Here's an interesting tidbit - the technique of peeing mid-race has its own name, 'Pulling a Paniagua'. Yes, you heard it right! Back in the day, the phrase was first coined when a male cyclist, Paniagua, mastered the art of relieving himself without losing much time or speed during the race. But, of course, male anatomy vastly simplifies this feat. For female cyclists, it's a tad bit more complicated. Are they doing it on the move? Are there stops involved? It's about to get funny, but also, informative.

Learning the Art - Peeing on the Move

So, how do female cyclists do it? The first option is to pee on the bike. Yes, as shocking as it may sound, it is a common strategy employed by many professionals during races. Often, cyclists will wait for a quiet section of the course, typically a descent where riders tend to spread out, and 'let it flow'. They pull aside, away from the draft, wriggle out of their bib shorts, keep balance, maintain a steady pace and handle the wind factor, all while answering nature’s call. It's a difficult multi-tasking feat, and every second still counts. Definitely not for the faint-hearted or less experienced, and certainly, for obvious reasons, less adopted by female riders.

The 'Stop and Go' Method

The 'Stop and Go' is a more common and practical method for female cyclists, especially during races more than two hours long. Coordinated with teammates or during pit stops, the cyclist can quickly dismount, run to the roadside, and crouch behind a bush or team vehicle. It might result in a few precious seconds lost, but it’s a safer option, and with good pre-race planning, the impact can be minimised.

Taming the Bladder - Strategies to Minimise Stops

A golden rule of long-distance cycling is never to pass a toilet – pre-emptive peeing can be a race saver. Strategising fluid intakes, performing 'nature breaks' before starting the race, and even using topical creams to reduce bladder irritation can help minimise pit stops. But remember that overdoing this could risk dehydration, so a balance is mandatory.

The Unsung Heroes - Supportive Race Organisers and Teammates

Behind the continuous and seamless cycling action we witness, indispensable supporting roles often go unnoticed. It's not just the cyclists; race organisers, teammates, and even competing teams playing fair through 'nature break' agreements make it possible. With everyone's understanding and support, addressing a naturally occurring, essential body function becomes less of a spectacle and more of a part of the game.

My Own Brush with ‘The Call of Nature’

Well, speaking of this topic reminds me of an funny incident in my own life. It's not exactly professional road race worthy but it did provide me with a firsthand understanding of this aspect of cycling. A few years ago, I joined a long distance group ride here in Wellington. Having neglected to take a pre-ride bathroom break, my bladder started screaming at me about halfway through the ride. Looking around for a secluded spot, I ended up choosing an imposingly tall bush for cover. Before I knew it, a strong gust of wind bent the bush to a slight bow leaving me, well let's say, noticeably exposed. It's safe to say that from then on, I've always heeded the golden rule of cycling - never pass a toilet!

In closing, while a seemingly peculiar detail, understanding and managing the biological demands of the human body adds another layer to the beauty and complexity of the sport of professional cycling. This topic allows us an insight into the strategy, perseverance and very human aspects that come alive behind the scenes. It's about time we appreciate the intelligence, tactical finesse, and the sheer willpower that professional female cyclists exhibit, down to mastering the art of 'pulling a paniagua'.