When Niels and I decided we would start a cyclocross development program in 2016, we did so with an eye towards developing young female elite riders from the Northwest, and helping them to bridge the gap from local to national success. As we went through the planning phases of the program, we realized there would be enormous value in creating a grassroots component to the team that would be open to all junior girls. The Northwest Women’s Cyclocross Project was born and we opened the grassroots team to all girls, free of charge.
As the team has grown and evolved, we realized that we had created a really special space for young riders. We work hard to never make a rider feel more or less valued based on their speed, skills, or equipment. The Project has grown into what I believe to be a safe and nurturing space for all of our members.
In the last few years, the Project has, on a few occasions, been approached by parents of transgender youth, asking if their children could be part of our program. It was an easy decision to open the team to all transgender youth, and we have worked to shift the name of the team from Northwest Women’s Cyclocross Project to simply NWCX Project.
Part of our team mission is to create a safe and inclusive space for the youth that we serve. In order to ensure our actions remain consistent with our mission, we must continue to evolve both the team and its messaging and mission as the needs of the community and youth we hope to reach are evolving with the times.
The legislation that has been passed in Arkansas in the last several weeks runs contrary to the mission of the Project. It has been heartbreaking for me to see the human rights of the LGBTQ community cruelly ripped away by hateful politicians under the guise of protecting women and children.
Arkansas will play host to four UCI events this year. Two XCO mountain bike races in April, a cyclocross World Cup in October, and the Cyclocross World Championships in January of 2022.
Countless people in the cycling community have called on USA Cycling to divest from or work with the UCI to relocate these events to a state where all athletes will feel safe and welcomed. USA Cycling’s response, or lack thereof, has felt like a slow twist of the knife. USA Cycling CEO Rob DeMartini, despite his protestations that his words were taken out of context, has shown an utter lack of understanding of the fact that USA Cycling paying lip service to diversity and inclusion will not make Arkansas a safe space for any LGBTQ person to visit.
USA Cycling’s position seems to be “we don’t believe our members will be impacted and even if they are, divesting from these events will not have an impact.” This thinking is not only harmful and backwards, it shows an utter disregard for the safety of its membership and a lack of understanding of how these laws could impact its most vulnerable members.
We are just a small development team from the northwest, a region that admittedly does not have a lot of USA Cycling sanctioned racing, but that does not mean that we should not raise our voices and ensure that our actions follow our stated ethics. The thing with collective action is that it takes many voices, both big and small, in order to make an impact. It can feel hopeless to take a stand when big name mountain bike and cyclocross athletes are sharing course previews and training videos in Arkansas, when major cycling media is posting hyped-up articles about the riding in and around Bentonville and Fayetteville.
Just because it feels hopeless, doesn’t mean all hope is lost.
I will be asking the board of directors for NWCX Project that we commit to not supporting any events in Arkansas until these laws have changed and until every one of the young riders that have trusted us to create a safe space for them can also feel safe in Arkansas. This is not a decision that I have come to lightly. We have young athletes who have a real shot at making selection to the Cyclocross World Cups and World Championships this year, but we cannot show support to one athlete at the cost of making another feel unsafe or unsupported.
I hope that the law will change and that my decision will be moot, I hope that USA Cycling will take action rather than continually committing to “listening” with no follow through. I hope that our little team can have a positive impact in the world.