Attractive Cyclists Are More Likely to Win Races

Endurance might be correlated with how attractive we find someone, new research suggests

Photo: Bradley Wiggins

From the perspective of a high schooler, there's one immutable truth in life: the kids who do better at sports get the girls (and the boys), too. But does athletic success make people seem more attractive? Or is the other way around—that attractive people are more likely to excel athletically? According to new research looking at Tour de France competitors, in this case, at least, it's the latter: more attractive cyclists tended to do better in the race.

The researchers wanted to see whether good looks were in any way correlated with winning the hyper-endurance male-only cycling event that criss-crosses France and attracts an international pool of racers. So, the New York Times reports, they showed 816 male and female volunteers photographic portraits of eighty of the competing cyclists. The volunteers ranked the portraits according to how atractive they found the men. After the race, the researchers statistically analyzed whether or not attractiveness and success was at all correlated. Here's what they found, according to the Times:

That performance and attractiveness were closely related was clear: The 10 percent of riders who performed the best in the race scored an average 25 percent higher on attractiveness than the 10 percent who performed the worst.

A rider’s nationality was irrelevant to how attractive he was found, and whether the portrait showed him smiling or straight-faced was not significant either. The study excluded any cyclist a rater recognized, to make sure the rater was judging by looks alone and not by prior knowledge of the rider.

Typically, it was not the muscle-ripped riders who scored highest, but the leaner men. Because the ride requires a great deal of endurance, the researchers hypothesize that winners' bodies must reflect characteristics that indicate the person has high stamina. Endurance and stamina, they futher hypothesize, were likely favored by our ancestors, since the longer a man could pursue prey the better the chances he could successfully nab it, the Times says. Finding endurance—and its physical signs—attractive seems to have stuck with us throughout the ages. 

That's not to say that sexiness automatically makes you're an athletic winner, however. As the Times reports, French rider Amaël Moinard came out on top for hotness, but he finished firmly in the middle of the pack—an average rider. 

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