Women rate the winners of cycling races as more attractive, according to new research.
Dr Erik Postma of the Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, University of Zurich, explains that females prefer high-quality males as partners.
“As one aspect of quality is physical fitness, we would therefore expect fitter males to be more attractive,” he says.
He tested for such a relationship between attractiveness and endurance performance in a unique sample of the male population, 80 elite cyclists in the 2012 Tour de France.
“I found that it indeed are the handsome guys that finish first,” Dr Postma says. “Riders that performed better were more attractive.”
This association between looks and performance is in line with human endurance performance having been shaped by selection in our evolutionary past.
The study, ‘A relationship between attractiveness and performance in professional cyclists’, was published in The Royal Society journal Biology Letters today.
An online survey of 816 people was used to determine a rider’s attractiveness. This was then linked to his performance during the Tour de France.
Dr Postma says performance may be attractive because it could be an indicator of general health, vigour or strength or characteristics such as competitiveness.
High endurance performance is thought to have been the target of selection in early hominids because this meant more efficient hunting, gathering and scavenging.
“Interestingly, across cultures, women place a lot of value on the provisioning ability of their prospective partner,” Dr Postma says.
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