I was having a conversation with a friend the other day about road cycling. Interest in cycling always peaks when the Tour de France is about to kick off. We covered all the usual topics such as bikes, riding gear, riding on the road, etc, and then she asked “Do riders have to pee while racing, and if so, how and where do they do it”.
After chuckling a bit I realized that this is a good question, after all if you are hydrating correctly, you should be peeing as often and as much as you normally do. So yes, riders do pee while racing, training, etc. Nature breaks are no big deal if you are out riding or training, but if you are competing, those breaks can cost you valuable time. So how do riders pee in a competition?
Basically there are two ways to alleviate a full bladder while riding.
The most common way is that after a few hours of riding, a rider will initiate “a pee-break”. This can be done in several ways, for example, a cycling team or group of riders will choose a designated pee stop, or the entire peleton may stop in mass to “water the flowers”. A common tactic is for a prominent rider, like say Contador or Schleck, will accelerate and ride around the front of the group as if he were attacking, but then pull over to the side of the road and stop and pee. This does a couple things. First, this lets those at the front of the race who are controlling the tempo see that it’s time for a pee break and not push the pace. Second, everyone else will see the move and if they have to urinate, they will do so also. Pee breaks also occur in mass when there is a natural race obstruction, like say a freight train blocking the route.
It is important to note that there are certain unwritten rules that govern peeing in the Tour de France. The main one being that you shouldn’t attack if some of the leaders are taking a “nature break”. This is considered to be unfair and other riders will criticise them harshly and team up against them on the next stage of the Tour, it is the same principal if someone has a crash.
The second method is the rolling pee where the cyclist will literally relieve himself on the bike. The way this works is that the cyclists will roll a leg up or lower the waistband (almost impossible with bibs) of his shorts, turn his body to the side, aim for the side of the road where hopefully there are no spectators and let loose. It’s not uncommon for another rider to assist the “evacuee” by putting his hand on his lower back to stabilize and provide a little push to avoid loosing contact with the main group. It isn’t easy to do it while riding and it’s usually a little messy, particularly on a windy day, but it can be done.
Nature breaks are almost never shown on TV, to keep the public from thinking of such nasty things as bodily waste while they’re enjoying a sporting event. And generally, TV cameras and photographers avert their lenses if they see even a rider going into “besoin naturel” position, but a keen eye will catch the occasional nature break from time to time while watching the Tour on Versus.
Luckily I have nice clean public facilities to use on my turn around points, so I haven’t had to practice the rolling pee technique…yet.
Ride Time: 2:04:54
Stopped Time: 27:48
Distance: 31.26 miles
Average: 15.02 miles/h
Fastest Speed: 21.47 miles/h
Ascent: 167 feet
Descent: 134 feet