A transgender cyclist has won a professional women's cycling race in North Carolina, beating his closest female competitor by five minutes. Austin Killips, 27, took part in the 137 mile (220km) Belgian Waffle Ride cycling race over the weekend while competing in the female category.
The course which runs from Hendersonville, North Carolina through rugged mountains features more than 13,000 feet of climbs, 40 percent gravel and rock roads and rugged terrain making the event "challenging" with "unparalleled punishment for entrants" and "among the hardest if not the hardest course," according to organizers.
13 miles into the race, Killips was already leading and maintained his dominant position over the women for almost the entire race with female riders Paige Onweller and Flavia Oliveira Parks eventually ranking 2nd and 3rd place behind him after he won the competition in 8hr 28m, 5 minutes ahead of Onweller and 7 minutes ahead of Parks.
Of the win, Killips said “It was just a grueling effort. I am just really proud to lay it out there and get the result.”
“I asserted myself there and was able to get a gap early,” Killips said of the merciless trouncing of the women competitors. “We were kind of all riding together for quite a while and, you know, I have a cross background and I am going to attack these single track sections as hard as I can and did that. … One of the mid-race single-track sections I just kind of hammered and was able to stay clear.”
Paige Onweller who had her win stripped away from her by the male reacted to the result in a post-race interview "Most of the day it was riding the top three women who were together, me, Flavia and Austin. But yeah, I just kind of couldn't match, you know, Austin and some of the single track and the power … just not comparable."
The runner-up then took to her online blog to recount the day's event and to "address the numerous comments" and the controversy surrounding the race "A transgender athlete won the women's overall, which has caused some controversy."
While Onweller said that she didn't want to share her "personal opinion" she did however indicate that she is in favor of a separate transgender category being created in order to restore fairness to cycling "I think it's most important to recognize that all athletes, no matter how they identify, should have a space to compete and race…I feel a separate category may be appropriate."
The backlash from the win prompted the Belgian Waffle Ride organizers to issue a statement saying going forward they will make some changes. "We completely realize we have to create an official policy that addresses this important subject. We know we have to take this on ourselves with the hope others will follow suit." Hinting at a potential separate trans category in future races the organizers said "We will make this happen quickly."
This was not the first time the male cyclist has courted controversy, just days earlier, Killips raced in the 200km Belgian Waffle Ride in Vancouver Island, Canada and came in 2nd place. In an Instagram post the biological male said "he "was stoked to…be a part of the inspirational roster of women."
And just months ago in April, the cyclist won 1st place during the New Mexico Tour of the Gila race, winning the cash prize of $35,000 in the women's category.
But perhaps most shocking of all was an incident that took place during the UCI Cyclocross National Championships in December 2022 where Killips was caught on camera shoving a female competitor out of his way, one of 3 alleged attempts at driving his competitor off course.
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