What’s Going On With All the Arm-Folding at Astana?

04.10.2008 | 9:36 pm


Like many cyclists, I have visited www.letleviride.com, the website Trek created with the surefire plan that a petition would get ASO to change its mind about letting Astana ride in the Tour de France (because, as you know, ASO is a highly rational race promoter and is always interested in hearing opposing points of view).

And, like many cyclists, I have been struck by the centerpiece of the website. No, it’s not the petition. No, it’s not that there’s no other real content besides the petition.

It’s that photo of Levi. He looks so…so…angry, with his dock-worker’s hat, his piercing stare, his leather jacket. His aggressively closed-off body language, expressed primarily in the form of folded arms.

He’s so angry, in fact, that while the rest of the website is in color, Levi has gone completely desaturated.

240_levi_leipheimerI hardly ever get that angry.

Now, my first thought, upon seeing this picture was that Levi — a spokesman for PETA (see how kind, happy, and unlikely to beat you up he used to look?) –  was angry that somebody made him wear a leather jacket for the photo shoot.

I’ve since discovered to reconsider.

Now the World is Ready for You
So last night I spent some time surfing the web, and I discovered that the Astana cycling team now has its very own website, making them as technologically with-it as the average American elementary school student. While there (at the Astana website, not elementary school), I ran across another picture of Levi.

leviYes, his arms are folded. Again.

Or is it that they’re folded still?

I can’t help but begin to wonder what this means. Is it possible that Johan Bruyneel is forcing Levi to keep his arms folded at all times, so as to facilitate upper-body atrophy? Or is this a special training exercise that Levi is conducting, wherein he constantly squeezes his ribs in toward the center, eventually narrowing his body and reducing his wind footprint ever-so-slightly?

Well, those may be part of the explanation. But — for Levi, at least — part of the explanation may also have to do with the jersey he’s got on.

Tell me: if you had a jersey that looks like it was designed by the same cartoonist who penned Wonder Woman, wouldn’t you cross your arms over your chest?

Think I’m a little “out there?” OK, fine. Here’s another picture of Levi in this jersey design.


Sure, this time he’s not crossing his arms over his chest this time, but just look at his face. Have you ever seen more of a “Please, kill me now” smile in your life?

I submit that you have not.

More Proof
My interest — and my concern — growing, I started seeing if there is a pattern. I looked up Chris Horner’s picture:


Yes, his arms are folded, too. If this had been the first Astana cyclist’s photo I had stumbled across, I would have centered my arm-folding Astana team theory around the fact that it looks like Chris is embarrassedly hiding a paunch. Look at that smile. It’s like he’s saying, “Hey, don’t look at my stomach. Why don’t you look at my head-sized watch, instead?”

Of course, Leipheimer and Horner are probably the only two Astana guys posing with their arms folded in front of them. It’s probably just some American thing, right?

Ha. Here are Sergey Ivanov and Andread Kloden, looking like they’re about to demand you hand over your lunch money.ivanov














The Spaniards — Contador and Antonio Colom, are clearly going for the same look, though I’d say with considerably less success.
















Clearly, this is no coincidence. There’s a pattern here. “But,” I asked myself, over and over, “Why? Why would they be covering their chests like this?”

And then it hit me: By considering what they’re covering up, I could understand why they’re covering up.

I see two possibilities. One of the two must be true, and maybe both are.

Possibility 1: They’re covering up the name of the team with their arms, hoping that ASO will forget that they’re Astana. If you look at Contador — the racer who has the most to gain by getting in the good graces of ASO — you’ll notice he is by far the most proficient at covering up his team’s name.

Possibility 2: They’re covering up their hands. Is it possible that Bruyneel has been handing out beatings when cyclists turn in a less-than-stellar performance? In days of yore, headmasters would whack truant children on the top of the hand with a yardstick, leaving a painful — and very visible — bruise. Could it be that Bruyneel’s secret of success is a literal interpretation of “carrot and stick” motivational techniques?

Take a look at how few hands you see in all these photos — including the ones where Contador and Leipheimer are standing with Bruyneel, their hands behind their backs — and then try to tell me you don’t share my suspicions.

Or is it possible they’ve got other reasons? I’ll let you be the judge.

kiriyevOne Last Piece of Evidence
Let me conclude by showing you a picture of  Roman Kireyev, off Kazakhstan. Here is his actual team member information:

  • Favorite Race:  World Championships
  • Dream Profession: Actor
  • Favorite City:  Rome
  • Message to Fans: Like cycling and have fun
  • Favorite Food: Italian Pasta

That’s so sweet.

Personally, I find it offensive that Astana is evidently hiring 10-year-olds to race. Doesn’t that break some kind of child labor laws?

That doesn’t compare with my main complaint, though. Evidently, they’ve cut off his hands.

Bruyneel, have you no shame?


  1. Comment by BurkeInTheOzarks | 04.11.2008 | 6:57 am

    My theory is that they are trying to push out their biceps by folding their hands underneath them in an attempt to (unsuccessfully) disprove the theory that roadies have no upper body strength.

  2. Comment by Mike Roadie | 04.11.2008 | 7:02 am


    Horner is hiding his Astana-ness well, too!

    And doesn’t Levi look like he’s got that “look what I just caught for dinner” look in the shot with the dog??? Definitely NOT best JPF!!!!

  3. Comment by Yeagermeister | 04.11.2008 | 7:02 am


    I concur with the theory. Covering up the Astana logo will certainly further confuse the already-confused ASO.

  4. Comment by TIMK | 04.11.2008 | 7:33 am

    I don’t know, a bald guy in a giant skull shirt holding a yip yip dog? Pretty scary to me. And actually the skull on his shirt looks a lot like his head.
    I was assuming the hand hiding thing is because they paint their nails – I mean they might as well since they shave their legs and wear spandex. (Yeah, yeah Lycra – I know.)

  5. Comment by TomE | 04.11.2008 | 7:46 am

    And what is the deal with Alberto “leaning” in on the photo with Levi and Bruyneel????

  6. Comment by KT | 04.11.2008 | 8:14 am

    Ha! They’ve not only painted their nails, they’ve painted their LEGS!

    C’mon, guys, not everyone can be the Blue Man Group. Stop trying to ride their coat-tails. Seriously.

    Fatty, I will admit to laughing out loud at most of your post– especially after I clicked on the link that took me to the Wonder Woman theme song. Brilliant!

    Re; Levi’s fancy new jersey: I’d cross my arms over it, too; it’s got stripes leading towards his junk. Like you really want everyone looking at your lycra-covered crotch. Who designed that thing? Maybe they were going for the “vertical stripes are slimming” thing.

  7. Comment by tim | 04.11.2008 | 8:19 am

    Gotta love pro cycling

  8. Comment by Jim | 04.11.2008 | 8:30 am

    I figure they cross their arms to hide the needle tracks

  9. Comment by Clydesteve | 04.11.2008 | 8:50 am

    The only problem is – these guys do not have enough arms to also cover up their hideous powder blue and black and yellow “here is the crotchal area” bib shorts.

    Riding shorts should never be in pastel colors.

    Riding shorts should not have a different color of crotch panel than leg panel.

    This one really had me laughing, Fatty – Thanks for the continuing effort – as we all expect from a world-class full-time blogger.

    Man it is still cold enough, I was in full tights, and warmers warmu-up jacket and balaclava, etc., etc. this morning.

  10. Comment by cowboycramer | 04.11.2008 | 8:52 am

    This is an old trick that skinny cross country runners have used for years (at least for 5 when we did this for our team pictures). Runners, like cyclists, don’t have tickets to the “gun show,” because they don’t have guns. They have those cheap little plastic squirt guns. So, you fold your arms, and then push your want-to-be biceps out to kind of flatten them and make them look more real…So, duh, they’re just trying to look tough!

  11. Comment by Eufemiano Fuentes | 04.11.2008 | 8:54 am

    is this another on of those april fools posts?

  12. Comment by Bob | 04.11.2008 | 9:01 am

    I got nothing. After the “bigger biceps”, “needle tracks” and “pastel lycra” comments were taken, I’m out.

    Apparently you have to set your alarm to get a witty comment in.

    Fatty – hysterical, as always.

  13. Comment by graisseux | 04.11.2008 | 9:03 am

    I vouch for what cowboycramer said. In my first cross country pictures I indeed have my arms folded. By the time I was a senior I had done a lot of weightlifting so my arms weren’t crossed in those pictures. I actually never thought about that until now. I think it was more subconscious on my part.

  14. Comment by dug | 04.11.2008 | 9:06 am

    what i want to know is how you made each one of them look like that guy from X-MEN III. You know, porcupine man, who kills with his quills.

  15. Comment by IM Able | 04.11.2008 | 9:23 am


  16. Comment by KanyonKris | 04.11.2008 | 9:39 am

    An entertaining preposterous conspiracy theory – thumbs up.

    These teams really need to spend more on photographers. I’ve seen better school / year book pictures. The photographer is supposed to make you look good, not dork.

    And cyclists should always have their picture taken on a bike to give context to the lycraness. Otherwise people might guess gymnast, cross country skier, circus performer, etc.

  17. Comment by fatty | 04.11.2008 | 9:52 am

    eufemiano: man, that’s just mean.

  18. Comment by Al Maviva | 04.11.2008 | 9:55 am

    Arms folded on their chests – cold nipples. Do you have any idea how cold it is in Kazakhstan this time of year?

    Well, neither do I. But there’s mountains, and the economy stinks so central heating is probably right out.

    Arms behind their backs – covering needle marks, acne, and newly grown back hair. Y’know, that was caused by Tyler Hamilton’s chimerical dog’s twin and some Jack Daniels.

    That’s what I’d guess anyhow.

  19. Comment by Mary Sue | 04.11.2008 | 10:13 am

    It’s to pooch out their biceps and make them look buff.

  20. Comment by MAJ Mike | 04.11.2008 | 10:24 am

    As hans ans Franz have been banned from training the riders, such arm-folding and bicep-pooching is the only way for them to provide a minimum publicly acceptable leve of pumpitude for their puny arms.

  21. Comment by Paul | 04.11.2008 | 10:33 am

    Levi’s right hand is hidden in both arm-crossed pictures. Maybe he’s got a gun, waiting for the next ASO proclamation.

  22. Comment by bikemike | 04.11.2008 | 10:43 am

    Clydesteve wins with today’s new name for a metal group “Crotchal Area”.
    nice one.

  23. Comment by axel | 04.11.2008 | 10:47 am

    if I had to wear such a jersey and shorts in public I’d cover my face with my hands, whether they are bruised from punishment (or the last crash) or not.

  24. Comment by Steve | 04.11.2008 | 10:51 am

    I think that Astana should change it’s name and uniforms to match one of the teams ASO already invited to the Tour, let’s say it’s Quickstep. Get wigs and mustaches for Leipheimer and Horner and dye Contador’s hair.

    The final part of the plan will be to get up really early before each stage and get to the sign in before the real Quickstep riders. Then just play dumb when the actual Quickstep team shows up for the sign in. When Tom (Alberto Contador) Boonen wins the overall at the Tour nobody will be the wiser, although they may be curious why his Spanish is suddenly so good.

  25. Comment by Maxrad | 04.11.2008 | 11:06 am

    C’mon Fatty, how could you cut out all those team pics and not notice their heads are all different sizes? Clearly there’s some sort of micro/macrocephaly at work here.

    No wonder these guys have their arms folded– their heads may swell up and explode at any minute!

  26. Comment by Eufemiano Fuentes | 04.11.2008 | 11:20 am

    Sorry. you are right.

    I am just angry & bitter about having no one to ‘help train’ this season.

  27. Comment by cyclostu | 04.11.2008 | 11:23 am

    You know some of the posing is reminiscient of that Canndale ad that Fatty ripped sometime ago, especially with the leather jacket/sock hat/70’s detective thing that Levi’s trying to pull off (badly I might add). It’s hard to pull of the whole “tough” thing when you’re all clad in lycra and look all emaciated and stuff.

  28. Comment by pantaloonfan | 04.11.2008 | 11:42 am

    Well, seems to me Levi got to ride last year, and he wasn’t good enough to win the Tour. Why the hell is he still the guy we are supposed to think of as a GC threat anyway?

  29. Comment by Byrdbth | 04.11.2008 | 11:46 am

    Alright so he did now win, but third is pretty good.

    Anyways, I will confirm that the trick these cyclist are trying to pull is to make thier biceps look bigger by pushing them up, most of my XC running friends (guys, mostly) do the exact same thing.

  30. Comment by Al Maviva | 04.11.2008 | 11:47 am

    Steve, it’s been done before, right down to the Quickstep imitation. Frank Vandenbroucke, then suspended for doping, showed up at a domestic pro race in Italy with a false ID stating he was Tom Boonen.

  31. Comment by brokeMBA | 04.11.2008 | 11:48 am

    Hey, they are saddly trying to look tough, but haven’t realized yet that they are skinny and wear lycra as part of their jobs… You can’t look tough guys, get over it…like the rest of us roadies.

    Nice dog there Levi…that’s perfectly in line with how tough pro cyclists actually look. LOL!

  32. Comment by Big Mike In Oz | 04.11.2008 | 11:55 am

    I think they’re actually exercising. You know, for they new jobs. Well Astana won’t pay them forever if they can’t race the big races so the riders are preparing themselves to become…

    Pole dancers.

    It fits. Folded arms is what you see in still shots, but if you could see them on video they’d be clenching and unclenching. And chanting. There’d be chanting.

    “I must, I must, increase my bust.”

    Team Astana are all going to become pole dancers. A bunch of fit young guys. It fits with the painted fingernails theory. And their legs are already shaved. Come on. You know you like it.

  33. Comment by M2 | 04.11.2008 | 11:58 am

    Crossing arms is a reflex reaction to getting caught with your hand in the cookie jar, or is it the doping kit. Think back to when you were a kid and you got caught doing something you shouldn’t have been doing. What happens? “What!?!” “Who, me!?!”

  34. Comment by Judi | 04.11.2008 | 12:29 pm

    I think they do that to make their shoulder muscles look bigger.

  35. Comment by Hamish A | 04.11.2008 | 12:35 pm

    Is it just me, or does Levi look a little ‘Dr.Cox’ from Scrubs on the LLR site?

    Someone should have told the Web designer that if you’re trying to get a team associated with doping back into the Tour that the main image (or, the ‘hero’) on the page shouldn’t look like the guy you’d buy a dimebag from… Just a thought.

  36. Comment by carl nicoletti | 04.11.2008 | 3:04 pm


    “say it after me”…

    It’s bad enough that the rednecks THINK we’re gay, do we have to look like it too?

    (With appologees to any gay folk out there… but damn those are fugly shorts.)

  37. Comment by carl nicoletti | 04.11.2008 | 3:06 pm

    Ya know, I’m kinda sorry I just said that because when I think about the gay people I know, they are usually VERY nice dressers…. Sorry


  38. Comment by D | 04.11.2008 | 5:47 pm

    Contador looks cold (Es muy fresco aqui dentro!) so maybe he’s just trying to warm up. Of course, that doesn’t explain the others.

  39. Comment by Barbara | 04.11.2008 | 6:43 pm

    At least the shorts are black in the crotchal area (love that). A few years ago someone sent me a thing called “why bicycle shorts are black” that had a picture of an entire team on the podium in sweaty red shorts, and you could see EVERYTHING!

  40. Comment by Mark in Monterey | 04.11.2008 | 10:43 pm

    You all have it coompletely wrong. I just got back from work and it is completely obvious: Astana are giving themselves hugs because the major tours (except the Vuelta and TOC) have snubbed them: where’s the love? Gotta make it for themselves, folks. Remember, hugs are supposed to be therapy…..

  41. Comment by blinddrew | 04.12.2008 | 2:41 am

    I’ve just got to say that if Ivanov and Kloden were going for the whole extortion look then they do it very well! I wouldn’t normally be frightened by a bunch of skinny guys in lycra but you stick an ill-fitting goon-suit on top of them and they’d actually be quite intimidating. Especially in the classic short, stocky one and tall, thin one combination…

    Oh yeah, and BLACK SHORTS!

  42. Comment by Hawk | 04.12.2008 | 3:43 am

    I’m not going to even watch the TDF this year. I am sick of the idiots at ASO……….

  43. Comment by Matthew | 04.12.2008 | 2:39 pm


    Use flamboyant sissy instead. I speaks to no ones social, economic, religious, age, gender or sexual orientation or status. And still gets the point across that they look plain doofy…

    Just sayin’

  44. Comment by Born4Lycra | 04.13.2008 | 2:47 pm

    This is a bit late. I’m assuming they have saved money by hiring the local guy that does the school shots of the local kiddies.
    You know okay evrybody smile, cross your arms etc etc.

  45. Pingback by Too Busy to Ride « Dana’s Blog | 04.13.2008 | 3:35 pm

    [...] good for some laughs, much to the chagrin of my husband when I was reading his posting regarding folded arms throughout the Astana Team while I we were catching up on our TV recordings from the week. If you [...]


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