Mathieu van der Poel's protest poo - and four other famous toilet stops in cycling history

The new men's world champion apparently stopped off in a Scottish house to take a break on Sunday, but he was not the first to feel an urgency mid-race

Van der Poel after winning the Worlds
Mathieu Van Der Poel recovers after the UCI Cycling World Championships men's race
(Image credit: Getty)

Forget his broken shoe, forget his 22.3km solo attack to win the Netherlands' first men's World Championship road race title, one of the most intriguing stories of the men's World Championships is that Mathieu van der Poel credited his win to a couple who ushered him into their home for a toilet break during the 271km race on Sunday.

While the event was paused for 51 minutes - with 192km to go, thanks to a protest - Van der Poel, along with some other riders, went to the toilet in a nearby house. The Dutchman was the only one who went on to win the rainbow jersey, however, so the Scottish couple who own the bathroom in question have an odd connection to his victory.

“I have to do a big massive message," Van der Poel said post-race. "I had to knock on the door of a couple’s house along the course. I really owe them and I would like to thank them so much. I couldn’t have carried on racing without their help.

“It was the biggest race of my life and it was so kind of these people to let me in their house and let me sit on their toilet.”

Scottish newspaper The Daily Record tracked down the couple, Davie and Shona Findlay, who said all they did was offer a bit of hospitality.

"We did feel that it was a bit of an emergency because the team manager came first and asked if we could let one rider use the facilities, who I now take to be Mathieu van der Poel," Davie said.

“He was such a nice guy and extremely polite and he was so grateful. The next thing we knew there was another rider and then another and I think we had four of the guys from the Netherlands in.

“I think they were just taking advantage of the lull in the race and enjoying the rest while they got focused for the restart.”

"It’s all a bit surreal to be honest," he continued. "We’re aware of what a massive race it was and the incident with the protestors made our home a real focal point in world news for an hour or so."

Van der Poel's coach, Koos Moerenhout, later confirmed that it was not just a quick pee stop: "To pee? I think for something more than that. Oh well, it makes for another nice story."

The Dutchman is not the first rider in cycling history to be caught short, so here are four other famous toilet moments to note.

Tom Dumoulin's roadside incident at the 2017 Giro d'Italia

Tom Dumoulin at the 2017 Giro d'Italia

(Image credit: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Tom Dumoulin made history at the 2017 Giro d'Italia, becoming the first Dutchman to ever win the Italian Grand Tour. It was his only GT triumph, and was a huge result, as he battled to beat Vincenzo Nibali and Nairo Quintana. It remains one of my favourite races.

However, the race will be remembered also as the one where the then Sunweb rider had to pause on stage 16 ahead of the Stelvio, to go to the toilet. The camera focused on Dumoulin until it became clear that he was taking his bib shorts off. He ended up losing time to Nibali and Quintana that day, but still bounced back to win.

"A number of food groups, such as fructose and lactose, are not very digestible for some people, and some of us have a little more trouble with them than others," he later explained. "If you are already at the limit in your digestive system and you just eat a piece of food at the wrong time, such as during the giro, it can come through pretty quickly."

Annemiek van Vleuten battles stomach bug at 2022 Tour de France Femmes

Annemiek van Vleuten on stage three of the 2022 Tour de France Femmes

(Image credit: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

If you look at the results, then Annemiek van Vleuten's triumph at the 2022 Tour de France Femmes was dominant. However, the Movistar rider came close to quitting early on in the race thanks to a stomach bug, one which caused her to stop multiple times on the roadside during stages two and three to euphemistically 'take a break'.

“I couldn’t believe this was possible after being so sick,” she later said. “Being here in the yellow jersey – it’s a little bit of a miracle.

“I was super-close to quitting,” Van Vleuten said. “Day two, I couldn’t even pack my things. I was really in a bad situation.”

Perhaps her rivals should have taken more advantage of this situation. Flipping the tables, at this year's La Vuelta Femenina, Van Vleuten and Movistar took advantage of Demi Vollering's need for the toilet to attack and take time on stage six. Van Vleuten ended up narrowly winning the race over her SD Worx antagonist.

Greg LeMond does not stop for the toilet, but just goes

Greg LeMond during the 1986 Tour de France (in yellow)

(Image credit: Jean-Yves Ruszniewski/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

The first rider on this list who isn't Dutch! Greg LeMond's battle to 1986 Tour de France victory is the stuff of legend, his fight with teammate Bernard Hinault for supremacy spawning books and films.

However, he didn't just have to tackle rivals for yellow, but illness too. On his way to becoming the sole American to take home the yellow jersey, he also had to fight off bad food poisoning, and the results.

In Richard Moore's 2011 book Slaying the Badger, the incident on stage 10 is recounted.

"It was sixty, seventy kilometres to go, and I took a peach," LeMond said. "About 10km later I went to a teammate, 'Pass me your hat.' He was like, 'What?' I said, "'Pass me your hat, please." "What do you want my hat for?" "Pass me the goddamn hat!'

"I shoved it down my shorts, it didn't feel like it was going to be diarrhoea, but oh my God, it was so severe. I just felt the shorts go woooooop! And it fills my shorts, then slowly dribbles down my legs into my shoes. I mean literally, it was dripping into my wheels, it was flying off the spokes. And then everyone separated off from me. We were single file, we were going hard, and I was cramping, my stomach.

"When you get that kind of deal, it's a really personal thing, and you need isolation. You're dying. I needed to be alone. Sitting in the peloton, like, ooooh, I wanna be alone."

Still, he ended up winning the race, so all's well that ends well.

Peter Sagan nips into camper van at Tour de France

Peter Sagan on stage 17 of the 2016 Tour de France

(Image credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

If you have the opportunity, why not use a proper toilet? Albeit in a camper van. The ingenious Peter Sagan, then riding for Tinkoff-Saxo and on his way to his fifth consecutive green jersey at the 2016 Tour de France, did exactly this on stage 17 that year.

After being in the breakaway, the Slovakian was dropped and on his way back to joining the peloton, decided to use the opportunity to use the toilet. On television, Sagan was shown putting his jersey back on, but photos later showed him swiftly exiting someone's camper van.

Interestingly, this is not the only time that Sagan has been known to use a camper van for his relief; he did the very same at Paris-Roubaix the year before. If it works, why change your tactic?

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