In the 2021 edition of the Tour de France Peter Sagan crashed on stage three and sustained a cut to his right knee. The three-time World Champion battled through the first week and part of the second before withdrawing from the race at the start of stage twelve. Not only did Sagan miss his shot at an eighth Tour de France green jersey, but also the Tokyo Olympic Games. It’s a cautionary tale for all athletes.
For Sagan, it wasn’t the pain from the cut that made him withdraw, it was infection. Team Physician Christopher Edler said at the time “we did everything possible on site at the Tour, but even antibiotic treatment couldn’t prevent an infection”. Sagan went on to have surgery on his knee where the infected bursa was surgically removed.
Infection of broken skin for athletes is a real issue. In Sagan’s case it was a cut, however blisters, chafing, grazes and saddle sores can also become infected and require medical treatment and lengthy periods out of training and competing.

A study published in the Journal of Sports Science & Medicine provides some insight into why athletes are vulnerable to skin infections. The researchers investigated six athletes who rode an exercise bike for one hour (at 75% max heart rate) and skin surface samples were taken just before and then after the session.

Results revealed that staphylococci (bacteria) levels increased during and immediately after exercise, and the skin was moist – a great breeding ground for infection. The immune system did kick in with Defensin (an anti-microbial peptide produced by the body) increasing post exercise - likely in response to the increase in staph, however if the skin is breached - as in Sagan’s case, it can be a challenge to keep any bacterial infection under control.

The take home message for athletes of all levels is to keep your skin as clean as possible, especially after exercise, and even more so if there’s any area of injured or broken skin.

Here’s three tips on how athletes can keep their skin clean and lessen the likelihood of an infection;
  1. Shower as soon as possible after exercise. Get the sweat, dirt and bacteria off your skin as soon as you can after a session, paying particular attention to body areas that can harbour moisture and bacteria such as under the arms, groin area and feet. If you can’t get to a shower take along some wipes or a damp microfibre towel and wipe down after you stop sweating.                 

    1. Aggressively manage damage or broken skin. Treat minor abrasions, blisters, cuts, chafing and saddle sores by cleaning the area water ensuring all dirt and debris is removed. Apply an antiseptic lotion and cover the area with gauze and a bandage. Reapply antiseptic and change the dressing every day. 
    1. Prevention is better than cure. Sometimes you fall over and cut your knee, however generally, chafing, blisters and saddle sores can be prevented by avoiding sudden spikes in your training load, getting the right technical apparel and gear, and applying anti-chafe creams and balms such as the Premax Chamois Creams and Premax Anti Friction Balms.


    Sagan successfully recovered from his infection and surgery and has been confirmed to race in the 2022 Tour de France.

    Stay chafe-free with the Premax Anti Friction Cream for Men & Women, and help prevent saddle sore on the bike with the Premax Chamois Cream for Men & Women