Women’s cycling race loses main sponsor over decision to suspend trans athletes

Women cycling in England

A women’s cycling competition has lost vital funding over British Cycling’s decision to suspend trans athletes.

Top tournament sponsor Peter Stanton said he would be “letting down” the trans community if he “did not make a stand to show my support”.

Stanton has long funded the Women’s CiCLE Classic and the men’s Junior CiCLE Classic, both part of British Cycling’s National Road Series and Junior National Road Series.

But he withdrew tens of thousands of pounds from the June competitions as he denounced British Cycling for freezing its rules “arbitrarily”.

British Cycling, the sport’s national governing body, paused its trans and non-binary participation policy last week pending a “full review”.

During the review, however, trans riders will be barred from competing in a move that prompted other now jittery sport leaders to cast doubt on their policies.

Major sponsor pulls £15,000 from race over ‘arbitrary’ rule change

The often vexing debate over trans women riding bikes or kicking balls has seized Britain in recent weeks as British Cycling came to blow with cycling’s world governing body.

Though she fulfilled British Cycling’s own eligibility rules, trans rider Emily Bridges was blocked from competing at the National Omnium Championship earlier this month by the Union Cycliste Internationale.

The regulator said she was still registered as a male cyclist it had not yet granted her eligibility to race in international competitions.

“The transgender policy adopted by British Cycling had been the result of a full consultation process and was believed to have been working well until last week when it was suspended without any further consultation,” Stanton told The British Continental.

“Whilst fully supportive of women’s sport, I also have many friends and colleagues within the transgender community whom I feel that I would be letting down if I did not make a stand to show my support for their rights.

“This is not the first case of a transgender rider competing under UCI rules, or even as part of an official UCI team, and to arbitrarily change that position based on one individual case, I find totally unacceptable.”

British Cycling is reviewing its 2020 policy despite having already done so last year, which included a five-week-long consultation. It even launched an external Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Group to hold the body to account.

“I am desperately saddened by the Emily Bridges case and the actions that it has prompted me to take,” Stanton added.

Trans cyclist Emily Bridges rides a black bicycle in front of a brick building

British Cycling has suspended its trans and non-binary participation policy. It comes after trans cyclist Emily Bridges (pictured) was banned from participating in a top women’s event. (YouTube/Sky News)

“I sincerely hope that a satisfactory resolution to her case and that of similar cases in the future can be quickly found in the interests of all parties involved, and sport in general.”

Stanton pulling around £15,000 worth of funding from CiCLE Classic means organisers have until 10 May to make up the difference or else the events may not go ahead.

While some anti-trans groups such as Fair Play For Women have offered to back the women’s race, organiser Colin Chews told the BBC that she has reservations about “politicising” the event.

“We are a cycling event,” she said, “our objective is to pursue women’s cycling and promote it at its highest possible level in this country.”

Activist praises sponsor for ‘taking a stand’ against ‘cruel’ trans cycling ban

Scientists and experts have long stressed that there’s no real need to ban trans athletes from sports.

Biological sex is in no way straightforward, and the almost mythical role testosterone plays in trans eligibility rules is often overplayed given that the hormone plays little role in performance differences, researchers found.

Richard Hearne, the founder of inclusive cycling group Pride Out, praised Stanton for providing a roadmap to taking a stand against “cruel” anti-trans sports bans.

“All credit to Peter Stanton for taking a stand on this important issue,” he told PinkNews.

“To stop Emily Bridges from racing in the women’s category race (just two days before), after she carefully complied with the letter and spirit of the rules; and to then ban trans and non-binary [athletes] from elite sport indefinitely, is cruel.

“Why the sudden change of heart?

“You only have to look at social media to see there are a lot of trans people, cycling groups and trans allies who are in disbelief, upset and outraged at what’s happened.

“Come on British Cycling – trans and non-binary people are human beings who have a right to participate in sport and deserve much better than this.”