This article is from the Bicycling website.
Big shorts make it complicated, but not impossible, riders racing the Tour de France Femmes explain, “It’s just butts out.”
By Molly Hurford.
When you search for women’s bike racing on Google, the auto-fill almost always populates with one very important question: How do women riders pee during a bike race?
Here, we’ve asked two pros who are on the start line of the revival of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift to finally figure out the answer to this question.
We’ll be honest, we were actually a bit surprised with the answer. Because coverage of women’s cycling has been so spotty in the past, we’ve never seen a peloton pull over to take a group pee break like you occasionally see in men’s racing. And even when there is coverage of the women’s racing, the cameras are rarely as plentiful as they are in the men’s race, so we don’t see what’s happening at the back of the group. Perhaps the camera people are a bit more sensitive to riders’ privacy in the women’s race. Either way, it’s always been hard to know if—and how—pee breaks work in these races.
Do female riders stop to pee in the Tour de France?
So, here it is: Yes, women stop to pee during races. “I was so proud of myself when I did it for the first time,” says Kristen Faulkner of Bike Exchange-Jayco. “I believe it was during Vuelta a Burgos Feminas. I had never stopped in a race to go pee and I was so nervous that I would get dropped while trying to get back on. But I had to go—so I was trying to unzip my jersey while I was on the bike.”
How do they catch back on?
There’s an art to it, Faulkner explains: “You have to wait for the right moment, when there’s a lull and things aren’t going too fast. Wait until no one’s really attacking, and the pace is pretty slow. And then if you want to be discreet, and you don’t want the competition to know that you’re stopping, drift to the back.”
It’s just part of the job
In that first race, it came as a surprise to Faulkner how casual it all is—and how exposed. “I just pulled over, and you just jump off to the side of the road and pull your bibs down. It’s just… it’s just butts out. The follow cars are passing, but no one cares.”
In fact, the follow cars are important to the process, since riders will pee quick enough to jump in behind the follow cars and use them to move back into the peloton. But it doesn’t always go smoothly. That first time, Faulkner recalls, was a bit of a disaster:
“My radio fell out and got twisted in my jersey, and I was trying to throw my jersey back on, but the last car was coming in the caravan. So I just jumped on my bike with my jersey unzipped, holding onto [the radio] and trying to shove it back in. I road up next to the team car and handed them my radio and I was like, ‘Can you help me put it back in?’ They shove it down my sports bra and fit it in. I had never ridden no-handed in a race and here I am, trying to zip my jersey back up as I try to get back on the group, I’m nervous, and my hands are sweaty…. But I did it!”
The cliché of women going to the bathroom together is, funny enough, quite true as well: “Sometimes, everyone will agree to take a pee stop, and everyone who needs to go pee will stop together and ride back to the group together. But you need to know the riders: Some pee really fast! So if you need a few extra seconds, you can’t stop with those people, because they’ll leave you behind. You also don’t want to stop with someone who’s slower, because you don’t want to wait for them. There’s an art to it—I never would have thought I’d be trying to look for other people who pee at the same speed as me when I started riding!”
And while sometimes, you’ll see a huge group of men stop mid-race, that’s less typical with women—probably because it’s a bit more complicated for women to pee in bib shorts than it is for men. “Usually our riders will see if any teammates want to stop together, and ideally when other teams or riders do too,” adds Krista Doebel-Hickok of Team EF Education Tibco SVB. “Only a couple of times in my last decade of racing has the whole peloton stopped.”
Do Tour de France riders pee their pants?
There is one thing to avoid during a stage race pee situation, both from a comfort and hygiene perspective: “I had a coach once tell me I could just go pee on myself while riding. Don’t do that. Just don’t,” adds Doebel-Hickok. So, the next time you’re out riding and feeling the need to pee, remember: You’re just like the pros.