You have to feel sorry for Tom Dumoulin. He has ridden an outstanding first two weeks in this year’s Giro d’Italia. A dominant performance in the Stage 10 time trial, and another win on Stage 14 extended Dumoulin’s lead over second placed Nairo Quintana to 2 minutes 41 seconds in the race for the maglia rosa.
The proverbial hit the fan during Stage 16, when the need for a toilet break 33km / 20mi from the finish forced Dumoulin to seek relief in a ditch. He lost 2 minutes 10 seconds in the process, and saw his lead over Quintana cut to just 31 seconds.
Dumoulin and his Sunweb team laid the blame for his “💩 day” on food intake. Nutrition and hydration feature in much of what has been written about how to prevent gastrointestinal distress in cyclists. Two examples are Avoiding Stomach Problems on the Bike, and How to Prevent Stomach Upset While Riding.
I can find less written about what I call The Lycra Effect. I am not talking about the fact that middle-aged men look faintly ridiculous in Lycra cycling kit. I am referring to the multiple bowel movements brought on by donning such gear.
The Lycra Effect I mean works like this. On any given day when I am not cycling, irrespective of what time I get out of bed, I have one bowel movement. Usually following my first coffee of the day. I might have another bowel movement later in the day, but the two are separated by many hours.
Contrast that with what happens on mornings when I plan to ride. I average three bowel movements in fairly rapid succession, with sometimes a fourth to be dealt with before I can leave the house.
The independent variable here seems to be putting on, or even just thinking about putting on, Lycra cycling kit. What I ate the day before, the time I got out of bed, and whether I had a non-cycling activity planned, or indeed no activity at all planned for that morning, have no effect on the number of times I need to use the toilet.
As soon as Lycra is introduced into the equation, I am in and out of the toilet, and of course my Lycra kit, like a yo-yo.
It could be worse. The Lycra Effect always runs its course before I am on my bike. I hope Tom Dumoulin goes on to win this centenary running of the Giro. And I hope never to have to emulate his dash into the bushes in the middle of a ride.