Where’s the Black Cyclist in the Pro Peloton?
ALLEZ - JV Araneta (The Freeman) - June 15, 2020 - 12:00am

Professional cycling is a sport that you don’t normally see an African rider or a rider of African descent. Other sports include professional hockey and golf. Well, there was Tiger Woods but he was the singular black golfer in a seas of Caucasians patrolling the greens.

Cycling is traditionally a blue collar sport and very comparable to boxing. Yet, in the United States, black cyclist are rare. For the 2020 season, there are zero blacks in the US professional ranks of 113 riders.

But if you go back into the history of cycling in the US, the first World Champion was black,  Major Taylor. Taylor won the WC sprint in 1899 and other records but  he could not engage his fellow blacks to follow the sport. Of course, racism run deep back in the days.

In the US, the choice of sports for a young black individual is based mostly on economic potential. The NBA, NFL and the MLB are sports that can reward an athlete more money than any cyclist in the US can imagine. Think about this- Stephen Curry is the highest paid athlete in the NBA, collecting 40 million USD annually. Peter Sagan, cyclings highest paid star, brings home 5 million Euros. Leo Messi of FC Barcelona gets a cool 113 million Euros.

It follows that a young black athlete coming from a disadvantaged socio-economic background will choose either basketball, football or baseball over cycling. Not only that, if that black high school athlete has potential, then money will changed hands under the table to influence his or her decision to what college he is going to. Remember that the NCAA, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the organisation that governs college sports in the US, prevents its athletes from receiving cash or kind for their services while the NCAA itself earns 1 billion USD a year. This is one raw bone of contention that is fought especially by black athletes today.

LeBron James was investigated, while still in high school, for receiving a Hummer from his Mom, when everybody knows that his Momma couldn’t afford it. In fact, she had to take a “loan” to buy it (wink, wink!).

So the incentives to go to these major sports is so appealing to these young kids that cycling is just nowhere in their field of dreams. The closest these kids think of a two-wheeler is a stationary bike for warm-ups.

The second reason is the cost. A race ready bicycle can cost at least a 1k USD. You might say that its just 50K in our money but for black families, that’s a lot of money for a sport that is almost non-existent in the US and whose ROI is almost non-existent for blacks.

Just ponder this: 122 years after Major Taylor won the Worlds, the first African rode the Tour de France. Yohann Gene of Guadalupe finished 158th place in the 2011 Tour our of 198 riders.

It’s about time that cycling take a hard look at the black cyclists.

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