BMC skinsuit controversy: no aerodynamic advantage, but you can’t put a price on feeling fabulous

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As speed increases the leotard slips up the bumcrack reducing drag around the gusset.

While Sky’s bobbles caused outrage on stage one of the Tour de France, Richie Porte managed to rock an eighties-inspired leotard and shorts combo and totally get away with it.

What is the issue?

Instead of the customary skinsuit for the individual time trial, Team BMC opted for an eighties-style aerobics outfit. The risqué silhouette drew accusations of unfair aerodynamic advantage and left many feeling uncomfortable in ways they didn’t want to dwell on.

Does it improve aerodynamics?

Possibly. Some claim that the whale tail acts like the variable-sweep wings of a fighter jet, which swing back at higher speeds. In theory, this could also work on the bike: as a rider’s speed increases the leotard slips further up the bumcrack, thus reducing drag around the gusset.

What is a whale tail?

Whale tail is a scientific term used to describe the appearance of a thong, leotard or other garment as it migrates up the wearer’s bumhole. It refers to the resemblance of this travesty to the magnificent site of an actual whale’s tail.

whale tail
Left: Eighties whale tail. Centre: Whale’s whale tail. Right: Richie Porte’s whale tail. Credit: Myself (CC BY-SA 2.5)/ITV4

Is the BMC leotard UCI legal?

Unfortunately, yes. The rules state that items cannot be added to clothing to improve aerodynamics. Richie’s leotard is technically an addition, but there is no hard evidence to suggest any physical advantage. However, it could have a psychological effect.

What is the psychological effect?

Sources close to Richie Porte say the leotard and shorts combo make him feel like his heroes: Superman and Jane Fonda. So while there may be no aerodynamic improvement, you just can’t put a price on feeling fabulous.

Is it possible to unsee these images?

No. Eventually the waking terrors will pass, but the vision may still surface in nightmares.