In an extraordinary turn of events, a self-proclaimed male cyclist emerged victorious in a grueling North Carolina competition, leaving his competitors trailing behind by an astonishing five-minute margin.
The renowned 137-mile Belgian Waffle Ride witnessed the triumph of Austin Killips, a 27-year-old individual who identified as a woman. Paige Onweller and Flavia Oliveira were left in awe as Killips left them far behind in a cloud of dust.
Killips, with a sense of pride resonating in his words, described the race as a relentless battle. “I summoned my inner strength and managed to establish a significant lead early on,” he disclosed. “For a while, we were all cycling together, but drawing from my experience in cross-country, I knew I had to unleash my full potential on the demanding single-track sections. And so I did… Halfway through the race, during a treacherous stretch of the single-track, I poured my heart and soul into every pedal stroke and managed to forge ahead.”
Back in December 2022, Killips faced intense online backlash when a video emerged of him apparently nudging Hannah Arensman, a 24-year-old cyclist, off the track during the UCI Cyclocross National Championships. This incident left Arensman disappointed, especially considering he finished fourth in the race.
In response, Arensman commented, “I understand that cycling can be a contact sport, and collisions are expected. However, when a towering figure of at least six feet crashes into you, it’s an entirely different story. I made a conscious effort to stay focused and brushed off those thoughts. Nevertheless, that one incident, caught on camera, was utterly senseless.”
Arensman subsequently made headlines by officially announcing her retirement from cycling in an amicus brief submitted to the Supreme Court. She highlighted the need to preserve fair competition for women athletes by upholding legislation designed to safeguard their rights. Expressing her frustration, she wrote, “Following my fourth-place finish at the UCI Cyclocross National Championships in December 2022, witnessing male riders claiming both the third and fifth positions, my decision to retire became clear. During that race, I observed the man who finished ahead of me engaging in multiple physical altercations while shedding tears, watched by my sister and our family.”
Arensman passionately called upon governing bodies overseeing women’s sports to take immediate action to ensure the safety and integrity of female athletes. In her heartfelt plea, she exclaimed, “I empathize with young girls striving to compete, growing up in a time where they are unjustly denied the opportunity to establish new records and become champions in cycling due to the intrusion of male participants. The indifference, dismissal, and humiliation I have experienced from those entrusted with safeguarding women’s sports has left me deeply dismayed.”
After experiencing the Belgian Waffle Ride firsthand, Onweller realized the glaring contrast between herself and Killips. Reflecting on the day’s events, she acknowledged, “Throughout the race, I rode alongside the top three women, including Austin and Flavia. However, I must admit that Austin’s strength far surpassed mine, leaving no room for comparison.”
Addressing the controversy surrounding a transgender athlete winning the women’s overall title, Onweller shared her thoughts on her blog. “As followers of women’s road cycling are aware, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) currently permits such participation. Rather than venting my frustrations about the UCI rule, I believe it is crucial to emphasize the importance of cultivating a secure and inclusive environment for athletes of all identities.”
In a thoughtful proposition, she suggested the implementation of simultaneous men’s and women’s races. According to Onweller, each participant, beneath their helmets, represents an individual deserving of respect, dignity, and a safe space to pursue their passion for cycling. While she pondered the potential need for separate categories in the future, Onweller recognized that event organizers were actively exploring ways to protect women’s cycling and accommodate all riders.
In this ever-evolving landscape of sports and identity, these stories serve as a testament to the pressing need for ongoing dialogue and meaningful solutions to ensure fairness, inclusivity, and the pursuit of athletic excellence for all.