A study carried out by the Institute of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Zurich has found that fitter and faster cyclists are more attractive to the opposite sex. It seems that if you want to attract a partner, you should make getting fit a priority.
In the study women rated the facial attractiveness of cyclists in the 2012 Tour de France. This race was won by Sir Bradley Wiggins, who was sporting his usual sideburns and sly smile.
Women rated the men in the race and it was found that those who were finishing in the top 10 per cent were determined to be 25 per cent more attractive than their trailing rivals. When a man was leading, and therefore going faster than the others, women were likely to find him more attractive.
From an evolutionary point of view this makes sense. A female would wish to mate with a man who is fast and a leader as these genes will be passed on to produce healthy, fit offspring who are natural survivors.
Dr Erik Postma, the research leader at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Zurich, told BBC News that: “To my initial surprise, I found a positive relationship between the two and it was actually quite strong.”
“If we took the 10% best riders and compared their performance to the 10% worst, we found the best were on average 25% more attractive than the worst ones.”
“We don’t know what people are picking up in the faces that is signalling the riders’ performance.”
Contraception clouds attractiveness
However, one of the most surprising findings was that women who take a contraceptive pill were less likely to find the fittest men most attractive. Switching off the reproductive system seems to have the effect of making women less choosy about their partners.
The same pattern has been seen in previous studies, which showed that women taking contraception found men with muscular faces less attractive than those who were not using a chemical contraceptive.
The study was limited and the British team were not actually included in the study because they all wear dark sunglasses.
The research was published in the Royal Society journal, Biology Letters: “A relationship between attractiveness and performance in professional cyclists” by Erik Postma.
Photo of Bradley Wiggins by Petit Brun