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Study claims a link between cyclist performance and attractiveness

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Mark Cavendish

Research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests that women and men rate successful Tour de France cyclists as more attractive, even when they don’t know who the cyclists are.

Researcher Erik Postma from the University of Zurich wanted to know if there was a relationship between endurance performance and facial attractiveness.

He used an online survey to get 816 participants (72% of which were female) to rate the faces of riders from the 2012 Tour de France for attractiveness, masculinity and likeability. If the participant recognised the cyclist, their score for that rider was excluded.

“I found it indeed is the handsome guys who finish first”, Dr Postma said. “To my initial surprise, I found a positive relationship between the two and it was actually quite strong,” he told BBC.

“This association between looks and performance is in line with human endurance performance having been shaped by selection in our evolutionary past,” Dr Postma said, explaining the finding. “Across cultures, women place a lot of value on the provisioning ability of their prospective partner.”

“I got lots of emails from men that were almost offended,” Dr Postma said. “They said ‘No way I can judge the attractiveness of other men’.”

But he a couple of hundred men took part anyway. “It turned out they know very well what women find attractive,” he said. “If you think about it, it is probably not so surprising.”

The rider rated best-looking among the 80 in Dr Postma’s sample was Amael Moinard of the BMC team.