It’s New Year’s Day and I’m watching cyclocross from Belgium on TV, the GP Sven Nys. It’s one of the classic races – even though it’s not a World Cup event it matters, so there are good people on the start line. As the commentary is going through the riders for the elite women, I kind of recognise the name Austin Killips who has a third-row start today. I Google her, as you do, and find the story of a few protesters turning up at a race in the States to complain about her participation.
That’s why I remember the name, she’s trans, so I try to watch her progress but it’s soon a lost cause as Fem van Empel blasts away from the rest and the coverage of what’s happening behind gets patchy. Once the dust settles, and it well and truly has when Miss Killips finishes, she’s 7:30 behind in only a 50-minute race. No one is complaining. I’ll admit that Van Empel was on fire and even Lucinda Brand was at 2 minutes but the American behind by three-quarters of a lap wasn’t exactly a threat to the fairness of women’s sport I keep reading in the media.
Fast forward three weeks to the Exact Cross in Zonnebeke and she’s on the podium behind Denise Betsema and Marion Norbert Riberolle. Murmurs have started but why the sudden difference? It’s simple, Benidorm is hosting a World Cup event the next day and everyone who is any good is there instead – except, of course, Betsema and Norbert Riberolle. I know that’s harsh but context is quite important when comparing performances, especially when it comes to the myths surrounding the trans female athlete. The end of women’s cycling is in view, apparently.
Austin Killips winning the Tour of the Gila, a 2.2 race, is a scandal for transphobes and while it was kind of OK when she was mediocre, the step up to average is too much to contemplate. Forget that Miss Killips has progressed because she’s not working in a bike shop anymore and has more time to train, her improvement is “cheating”. I learn a new term: ‘Gender doping’.
I’d be tempted to laugh but people believe this rubbish. Even the Tour of the Gila’s race director [Michael Engleman -ed] says the transgender issue needs attention (opens in new tab) and the sport has to do something otherwise girls are going to be put off by these trans women being in the same place at the same time. It’s fear-mongering at its most insidious. He blames the UCI for not sorting this out at their level because women and girls are scared to speak out and say the wrong thing.
Looking beyond his…
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