Sure, Olympians are crazy fit, but there's something about those indoor track cyclists that makes your jaw plummet to the floor. What is it? Oh, yes, their massive thighs.
Thunder doesn't even begin to describe them. The largest ones, which at last count belonged to German cyclist Robert Forstemann (above), aptly nicknamed "Mr. Thigh," are as wide as the average man's waist (34 inches around). Perhaps you've seen this frightening photo in the Twittersphere of a German cyclist "thigh-off"? Forstemann's taut, veiny thighs, which hardly compare to the svelt-looking cyclist to his left, look like stuffed turkeys on Thanksgiving Day:
And while these barreled quadriceps seem freakish to us mortal Olympic viewers, they are pure necessity to the Olympians.
Track cyclists have to whip around the velodrome at lightning-fast speeds, often vaulting past their opponents to take the lead. For that kind of power, athletes need explosive leg strength, which comes from the butt and quads, while keeping the rest of their bodies slim and aerodynamic. Cyclists will endure all sorts of leg-pounding exercises including squat jumps, leg presses, and hamstring curls. But British cyclist Chris "Golden Thighs" Hoy, whose meaty quads have inspired not one but two Twitter feeds, didn't become Britain's most decorated Olympian with just a few leg lifts. While training, the 36-year-old spends three hours a day on the cycle track and another two hours at the gym testing the bounds of his muscles by doing exercises like using his feet to lift two-and-a-half times his own body weight.
Don't You Hate Pants?
If you're going to work that hard on one part of your body, it's no surprise that it becomes your pride and joy. Sure, it's difficult for cyclists to find pants. Hoy says he has to buy pants two sizes too big just so he can get them up to his waist. Nonetheless, the bigger the thigh, the more intimidating the competitor. And while thigh size doesn't necessarily translate to Olympic medals, it's still a serious bragging right. In the world of thigh-spiration, the Germans, i.e. Mr. Thigh, still reign supreme.
"Those German track sprinters are pretty much legendary," Beth Newell, a U.S. cycling champion told the New York Times. "I don't think any of them have names, even. They just get referred to by their quad size."