Cycling: Slovakian cyclist raises hair over his unshaved legs

World road race champion Peter Sagan has come under fire for having unshaved legs. The Slovakian has since tweeted a photo of his legs ready to be shaved, after the attention it has attracted.
World road race champion Peter Sagan has come under fire for having unshaved legs. The Slovakian has since tweeted a photo of his legs ready to be shaved, after the attention it has attracted.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

LONDON • It is fair to say that, amid the sometimes over-serious world of professional cycling, Peter Sagan stands out as a bit flamboyant.

For his wedding last year, the 26-year-old Slovakian rider wore a gold-trimmed tunic, arrived in a Trabant car and at one point rode a miniature penny farthing across a tightrope.

When he was crowned world road race champion, he briefly opted for a flashy, all-white ensemble to complement the rainbow stripes which come with the title.

But all this is nothing to Sagan's latest move: He has begun this year's racing season with unshaved legs.

Yes, legs with lots of hair on them. That is, legs like those of an ordinary man, albeit uncommonly lithe and muscular ones.

The Cyclingtips website has devoted about 1,000 words to this seismic event, including several theories as to why, such as to better insulate him amid the currently chilly temperatures of the Tirreno-Adriatico race, a superstition before he wins his first stage this year or just because he is Peter Sagan and he does whatever the hell he likes.

The article also rounds up some fantastic responses from fellow riders on the pro peloton. Taylor Phinney of BMC Racing said: "I fully support Peter in doing whatever he wants with his body hair."

The Irish former Tour de France winner Stephen Roche was less understanding, calling it a poor example: "He's wearing the world champion's jersey, and he owes it to be respectful and to be clean and presentable."

It is a rare phenomenon for male celebrities to endure close-up photographic scrutiny of unexpected body hair, unlike their female equivalents.

Why do pro cyclists (and many of their more keen amateur counterparts) even shave their legs?

The official explanations are that it makes the daily leg massages received by professionals easier to administer, and it helps speed up healing if you graze your legs in a crash.

The British Cycling website explains that recent wind tunnel testing has shown a marginal aerodynamic gain, a benefit long claimed but never previously proven.

And what of the owner of the hirsute pins himself? Sagan proved himself a step ahead again.

As yet more inclement weather affected the Tirreno-Adriatico, forcing a stage to be cancelled, the Slovakian tweeted a photo of his legs encased in a creamy unguent: "Happy that #TirrenoAdriatico has cancelled the stage today, because of snow," he wrote.

"I finally have time to shave my legs."

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2016, with the headline 'Slovakian cyclist raises hair over his unshaved legs'. Print Edition | Subscribe