Women rate top male endurance cyclists more attractive than lower-ranked ones even without knowing who they are, a finding that sheds light on the mating game, a scientist said Wednesday.
Evolutionary biologist Erik Postma of the University of Zurich selected portraits of 80 cyclists who took part in the 2012 Tour de France, one of the most gruelling events in sport, and asked participants in an online survey to rate the faces for attractiveness.
A total of 816 people took part in the vote, nearly three-quarters of whom were women.
What emerged, says Postma, was a remarkable link between a rider's average success in the competition and his perceived good looks.
"Riders that performed consistently well across the whole race received the highest performance score," Postma said.
"This performance correlated well with their final placing" in the Tour de France.
The top 10 percent best-performing riders on average were considered a quarter more attractive than the bottom 10 percent, Postma found.
One example was Maxime Monfort, who came 3rd in terms of attractiveness and 6th in terms of performance.
Rui Alberto Costa -- current world champion -- came 9th in terms of attractiveness and 15th in terms of performance in the 2012 Tour.
Preference for faster riders was strongest in women who were not on the Pill, which affects hormone levels.
The riders' performance criteria was based on Postma's own yardstick, assessing riders for endurance across the race. He factored in a rider's time during the prologue, the two time trials and the overall race.