The Tour de France is a grueling race to say the least. This year’s edition features 198 riders taking on a 21-stage route totaling 3,540 kilometers (or 2,200 miles) over 21 days. According to CNN, that includes 23 mountain climbs with only two days of rest for the competitors over the three weeks they’re on the move.
If that doesn’t quite put into perspective how physically demanding the race is, though, Polish cyclist Pawel Poljanski shared a picture on Instagram on Tuesday of the toll the opening 18 days of competition has taken on his legs. Not only were both of them badly sunburned – it’s hovering around a high of 80 degrees in France right now – the way the veins in his legs were bulging made many on the internet pretty concerned about his wellbeing.
“After sixteen stages I think my legs look little tired,” Poljanski wrote.
As Dr. Bradley Launikonis from the University of Queensland in Australia explained to ABC, elite cyclists will have as much as 40 liters of blood flowing their muscles every minute they’re exercising. For the untrained athlete, Launikonis explained, that number would likely be around 20 liters of blood per minute. Seeing as the cyclist’s blood is pushed around their legs for long periods of time throughout the day, it’s no wonder why high volumes of blood are still present in their legs when they’re rested.
It’s not necessarily unhealthy, either. Head of trainer education at Third Space Luke Worthington told HuffPost that the bulging veins in his legs are “just an indication of how lean Poljanski is and also how much blood has been pumped to the working muscles.” “
Most lean athletes will appear to be this vascular,” Worthington continued. “It’s made to look more excessive by the amount of muscle mass he carries in his quads.”
Does that make it any less gross? Of course not. But at least we now know there’s no reason to be concerned about Poljanski’s health, which means we can go back to appreciating how difficult it must be to get in good enough shape to compete in the Tour de France.