Discuss as:

What is wrong with this Tour de France cyclist's leg?!

Bettini

Just LOOK AT IT.

As American cyclist George Hincapie pedals his way toward a record-tying 16thTour de France that started July 2, it looks as though his brain is escaping from his leg.

Actually, he’s suffering from an unsightly case of varicose veins, says Dr. Walter M. Whitehouse, Jr., a vascular surgeon and Medical Director of Restoration Vein Care in Ann Arbor, Mich. In Hincapie's case, it's likely caused by his hours and hours of sitting on his bike. Sitting or standing for long periods can put pressure on the veins and cause them to bulge.

“These are the ugliest varicose veins I’ve seen in awhile,” he says. “They are more severe than the typical patient. I’ve seen bigger, but these are just a huge mass that are clumped together.”

Varicose veins indicate veins are blocked or pressured and fail to function well enough to carry blood back to the heart. When that happens, vein walls stretch and people can end up with scary-looking legs like Hincapie’s that can ache, swell and cramp.

Whitehouse, also a surgeon at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor, Mich., says upon first glance, Hincapie, 38, may need two procedures, one that uses radiofrequencies to collapse some veins, a second to remove the large mass.

 “I’ll bet he doesn’t have any symptoms,” says Whitehouse, “because if he did, he would have done something about it.”

Related:

NBC Sports: America's best hopes for the 2011 tour