Don't have a cow

How a farmer's brew affects riders health

By Susan Westemeyer

Did you ever wonder why so many riders come down with stomach problems after the various spring races in Belgium? One might suspect it's the effect of bouncing up and down so long on cobblestones, but the truth of the matter is much more... natural, one might say. It's all due to the cow manure, says T-Mobile's team doctor, Stefan Voigt.

"Last year in late March, Flanders experienced a spell of mild weather, prompting many farmers to spread manure on their fields. However, the good weather didn't hold and heavy rainfall during the 'Dreidaagse von de Panne' (three to five days before the Tour of Flanders) caused the manure to run off the fields and onto a few hundred metres of the race route," he explains on the team's website.

And how does the cow manure work its magic on the riders? "When the riders sped through these stretches, the excrement sprayed out in all directions -- onto the riders' faces and onto the mouthpieces of their water bottles. Consequently, when a rider took a swig from his bottle, he also unwittingly swallowed millions of E-coli bacteria. Within 12 hours of the E-coli contamination, the riders suffered severe upset stomachs with vomiting and diarrhea."

The solution? "Let's hope for cool and dry weather... so that the farmers 'dangerous brew' is frozen, or at least doesn't run off onto the race route."

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