Better cyclists are more attractive, study finds

Endurance equals pulling power in evolutionary terms

If you're good at endurance sports there's a decent chance you're a good looker too - that's the suggestion of an in-depth study into the attractiveness of Tour de France riders.

The study by Swiss evolutionary biologist Dr Erik Postma of the University of Zurich investigated how attractive 80 Tour riders were to a group of more than 800 people, 75 percent of which were female.

Postma's study found that the eight riders who performed best in the prologue, time trials and general classification scored around 25 percent higher in the looks department than the eight worst performers, reports the New York Times.

The study suggested that in humans' evolutionary past an attractive face signalled good endurance – and that was a crucial quality in a male because it meant they were better at hunting down prey to feed the family.  

Postma's study - A relationship between attractiveness and performance in professional cyclists - was based on portraits of 80 riders from the 2012 Tour de France. All the photos were shot in a similar style and were shown in a random order to the study group, who didn't know where the rider had finished – any rider they did recognise was disregarded.

Postma even went to the extent of investigating more about his study group. He found that older raters – the average ages was 32 – generally marked riders up and younger members marked more harshly. Women who weren't using a hormonal contraceptive also marked riders higher.

The study group was also asked to mark riders based on perceived masculinity, a signal of their strength, but found that it didn't correlate with attractiveness.

Postma's conclusion: "You might think masculinity would be attractive — it signals testosterone, how strong you are.

"But if you try to hunt a gazelle, it might not be so important that you are strong enough to knock it out because it will run away. If you have the endurance to run after it, it might be more beneficial."

And the best looking rider out of the 2012 crop? Because the study only drew on averages the best looking rider turned out to be Amaël Moinard of BMC, an outlier who actually wasn't one of the top performing riders in the race.

Here's a big photo of him:

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