Injury can rob a champion of their aura. We can attribute superhuman abilities, high pain tolerance and unparalleled handing skills to a top rider, But when someone announces they’ve got a saddle sore a bit of dignity is lost.
Right now Tom Boonen is soldiering on in the Vuelta with a saddle sore and normally you’d cheer at his brave riding but talk of “a kind of diaper” has made a few fans laugh and others feel sorry for him. Cyclingews.com have picked up a Het Nieuwsblad piece.
“It does hurt quite a lot… Because of the friction of the pants with the saddle, I suffer from an injury to the scrotum. The extreme heat and excessive sweating caused a heavy irritation in that area. There is a hole. It is not the first time that I have suffered in this place, but never as bad as now… I got a ‘second skin’, and glued it at times to a kind of diaper. The perineum, the area between the scrotum and the anus, is simply the most delicate part of the body“
I can’t help feel Boonen is giving away too much information. This is a risk of the job for riders, many others will have had the same problem but maybe they weren’t so explicit in the diagnosis and means of coping with the injury.
In fact go back to the 1989 Tour de France and the famous battle between Greg Lemond and Laurent Fignon. To summarise, the final stage into Paris was a time trial and LeMond won the Tour de France by just eight seconds that year. Now this was down to all sorts of things, from LeMond’s recovery powers and Fignon’s decision not to use novel “tri-bar” extensions. But one factor was the abscess ensured by Fignon, he had trouble sitting on the bike apparently.
There are different ways to deal with this. In the early days of the sport, a century ago, riders put veal or pork chops down their shorts for cushioning. Today’s bike shorts are an improvement, no?
Cutting a hole in the saddle is meant to help, as the image above shows. Riders will also use dressings, if you do then tell friends you’ve “dressed the wound” instead of admitting to wearing a diaper. Various anti-biotic creams can help.
But if things get Boonen-esque, get off the bike. Chances are your job isn’t on the line and continued riding just makes things worse. Each extra day means the roads of Spain means rhyme with loads of pain. Leave it too long and you can damage other tissue, such as the nerves and more.
- The first thing is to check leg length. If one limb is longer than the other than you are likely to be pulled to one side. If you get trouble down there and it’s usually on the same side, this is probably the case.
- Similarly get your saddle height ok, as if it’s a bit too high you can sway when pedalling, increasing the chafing.
- Position on the saddle matters too, if you are too far front it can mean more weight applied to a smaller area, riders can often pick problems after spending a day on the time trial bike in training.
- Some say cream helps but personally I’m less sure. I think it might have helped in the days when the chamois insert was actually leathery chamois but today you don’t need to treat the pad in the shorts.
- As soon as you’ve finished riding, get washed and changed. The bacteria that turn a pimple into a bigger infection. Riders normally like to head for the team bus, even those waiting for the podium ceremony will aim to freshen up.
Poor Tom Boonen, you might have heard of tabloid pressure but this is something else. These sores are part of the job but things can be done to reduce the pain and better, prevent trouble. Some things like leg length can cause long term issues but then again, many pros and their coaching staff will work to identify and compensate this.