Polish cyclist Pawel Poljanski’s legs are going viral for a very specific reason.
The 27-year-old athlete, who had cycled 2,829 km in 18 days while participating in the Tour de France, posted a harrowing photo of his legs to Instagram on Tuesday. They are abnormally veiny and his knees are sunburned.
“After sixteen stages I think my legs look a little tired #tourdefrance,” he wrote on the social media site.
The picture, which has over 38,000 likes, has left social media users shocked, grossed out and intrigued.
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Some of his fans also expressed concern and advised him to see a doctor, while others simply questioned if he was OK.
So what’s happening?
Dr. Julia Carroll of Compass Dermatology in Toronto, says this condition is caused by the high volume of blood pumping through the legs while cycling.
“Cyclists pump twice as much blood to supply their large leg muscles,” she tells Global News. “After a long day of intense cycling, it takes time for the vessels to relax. It also looks much more obvious because of the lack of fat on the legs.”
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Fat also plays a key component in his bulging veins, the Daily Mail reports.
“For an untrained athlete, maximum exercise will have 20 litres [of blood] per minute. These elite cyclists will have double that, about 40 litres per minute. The blood can pool there too and that’s what’s happening in this extreme case,” Dr. Bradley Launikonis, from the University of Queensland’s School of Biomedical Science, told the site.
And while this is completely common for elite athletes, this is not something most of us have to worry about. Carroll says the average person who cycles for a long period of time (though obviously, not nearly as much as an international race like the Tour de France) would have veiny legs as well, but it would not persist.
As for Poljanski, Caroll says there isn’t an exact time frame when his legs would go back to normal; each case is different for every individual.
Other athletes share their legs
Earlier this year, professional cyclist Antoine Duchesne also shared a photo of his veiny legs on Twitter after a long ride.
“Quand tu te préparais pour le Tour et que finalement t’as perdus 5kg,” he wrote on Twitter. Which translates to, “when you’ve prepared yourself for the Tour and you’ve finally lost 5kg.”