How Many Black Professional Cyclists Are There?

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Cycling is one of the whitest sports. In 2020, there was only one black cyclist at the Tour de France, one of the major events in cycling. In 2021, there were only five black cyclists on the tour. Less than 1% of the 2022 Tour de France riders were black. 

The lack of representation is obvious and it doesn’t seem like things are improving. Let’s look at some of the black cyclists who made it in the sport. 

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1. Kevin Reza

Kevin Reza is one of the most prolific black cyclists today. He’s been in the pro peloton for more than 10 years. In 2020, he was the only black cyclist at the Tour de France and even joined the Black Lives Matter protest by riding ahead of the group on the last day of the event. 

Reza got into cycling when he was four years old. His father who was also a rider gave him that start. He later joined the development team of Vendée U. He raced in six Grand Tours.  

2. Yohann Gene

How Many Black Professional Cyclists Are There?
Yohan Gene is in a road race. Image Source: Wikimedia licensed under CC BY 2.0

Yohan Gene is the first-ever black cyclist to have participated in the Tour de France. He competed in the race between 2011 and 2017 with the highest finish of 128. His professional career started in 2005 and lasted until 2019. He rode for Bouygues Télécom

On becoming the first black to ride at the prestigious event he said: “I’m very happy to finally race the Tour de France, but to be the first one was not really a goal,” Gene told Cycling News.

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3. Nic Dlamini

How Many Black Professional Cyclists Are There?
South African cyclist Nic Dlamini. Image Source: WikiMedia licensed under CC BY 2.0

Nic Dlamini is one of the few black cyclists you might be privileged to see on the world tour. He’s currently racing for Team Qhubeka NextHash. Cycling wasn’t his first sport. He started out in athletics before he chose cycling. 

In 2018 he went professional and competed in his first UCI World Tour, The Tour Down Under. He clinched the Mountain King Jersey and was the first South African to win an event at the UCI World Tour. In 2019, he rode in the Vuelta a Espana

The following year 2020, he represented South Africa at the Tokyo Olympics. In 2021, he became the first South African to compete at the Tour de France. 

4. Nelson Vails 

He was the first African American to win a medal in the Olympics. He represented the United States during the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. For his contributions to the sport, he was inducted into the US Bicycle Hall of Fame in 2009.

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5. Biniam Girmay 

Biniam Girmay is the first African rider to win a stage at the Giro d’Italia. Also he is also the first black African to win a world tour race. He did this when he won the Gent-Wevelgem in Belgium.  

He discovered cycling through his cousin and joined the World Cycling Centre. His first professional victory came in 2019 at the La Tropicale Amissa Bongo.

These are some of the black cyclists, current and former who’ve broken the colour barrier in cycling. 

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What Are the Authorities Doing?

Some of the former black cyclists have spoken out about their experience with teams. Erik Saunders told Cycling News that he wasn’t taken seriously because of his race. In fact, he never relied on the US national team to make it big. He used his contacts to cycle in Europe.

“I never wanted to fit in. Even in our community, having a bike is not normal. Everyone is worried about your safety and I seemed strange. That said, I’ve always wanted to race but I never expected to fit in.” Saunders said.

“I wasn’t taken seriously because of the ideas people had about me. Certain people weren’t ever going to get a look at the national team. You’d have to keep trying but I wasn’t interested in playing that game.” 

Rahsaan Bahati also spoke about being a black cyclist in a white sport. Despite winning the national championships at 17, he couldn’t make the national team to represent the country.

“I was told that I had to win the junior road rave at the Nationals to be selected to the World Championships. I’d won all year round but I still had to win.” Bahati told Cycling News.

In response, the former United States Cycling CEO Robert De Martini admitted that the system is broken and isn’t thorough in scouting talents. He also said that the organisation is working to have programs that’ll encourage minority participation in cycling. He also revealed that they now have a diversity, Inclusion and Equality committee to ensure minority inclusion. 

Will cycling ever bridge its racial inequity? 

If you want professional cycling gear, bikes, helmets, gloves and more, you can check these out on Amazon. 

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