Ever had a sore butt from riding? You’re not alone! Even the pros get sore derrières. In order to make you feel in good company, we’ve compiled some of the more famous or infamous saddles sores throughout the history of professional cycling.
• Eddy Merckx
Ever the consummate champion and the purest vision of a cycling strongman, even the Cannibal was sidelined by saddle sores. After the 1972 Tour de France, Eddy was so hobbled with sores that he stayed completely off of the bike for an extended period of time to heal. It was during this time off the bike that he solidified plans and resolved to attempt the hour record. Unfortunately, that was not Eddy’s only struggle with saddle sores. In 1976, his sores were so severe that he did not start the Tour de France despite a dominating spring campaign. He eventually underwent a surgical procedure to treat these sores.
Interestingly, Eddy was known for chronic bike fit woes. In fact, after fitting Eddy’s son Axel, Andy Pruitt (a bike fit specialist extraordinaire) theorized in his writings that Eddy might have had a leg length discrepancy like his son Axel Merckx. Imagine what Eddy would have done if Andy Pruitt had been in business during the 60’s and 70’s!
• Sean Kelly
Another “hard man”, Sean Kelly quit the 1987 Vuelta a Espana two days from the finish while in the lead due to a saddle sore. What a way to go out of race!
• Laurent Fignon
On the receiving end of an 8 second beat-down by Greg LeMond in the 1989 Tour de France, FIgnon was purported to state that he likely lost the Tour due to unbearable pain from saddle sores. Nevermind that LeMond was hobbled by sores on his feet and still managed to roll out with the 2nd fastest time trial in Tour history to take the yellow jersey. Despite our pro-LeMond stance, Fignon’s saddle sore is a relatively unknown facet of perhaps the most dramatic Tour de France in history.
• Greg LeMond
After a convincing 3rd Tour de France win in 1990, Greg LeMond bowed out of a few of the usual post-Tour criteriums due to saddle sores. These sores were so intense that he was apparently unable to move without obvious pain. Marking the decline of a great champion and the end of an era, LeMond abandoned the 1992 Tour de France on the l’Alpe d’Huez stage blaming unending torture from saddle sores.
• Oscar Freire
Oscar Freire missed defending his world champion road race title in 2005 due to a saddle sore that required an operation in June and kept him from serious training until October of the same year. That’s some serious time off!
• Lance Armstrong
Last but not least…Even Lance Armstrong has been hamstrung by saddle sores. In fact, one saddle sore nearly cost him a Tour de France title, impressive career, and cycling dynasty. During the 1999 Tour de France, Armstrong tested positive for corticosteroids. Armstrong had been using a steroid cream for saddle sores. After producing a medical certificate for use of the cream, Armstrong was not disciplined and was allowed to race on to win his first of seven Tours. During his “Comeback 2.0”, Armstrong found himself standing out of the saddle more frequently than normal in the 2010 Tour de France due to saddle sores. Between a sore butt and a body that had bounced off the tarmac no less than 3 times, it is a miracle that he even finished that Tour.
Saddle sores are a part of serious cycling and have even lost races and have changed professional careers. Fear not! There are measures you can take to prevent and treat these troubling problems. Look for subsequent posts covering prevention and treatment on saddle sores.