A cycling organization with events across the U.S., as well as Canada and Mexico, has announced it is creating a third racing category for individuals who identify as transgender.
The change comes after a biological male recently won a recent event while competing in the women’s category.
The Belgian Waffle Ride (BWR) says its event was “created in homage to the great one-day classics of Europe,” allowing riders to compete in long, hard, multi-terrain races.
On June 10, BWR held a race in in Hendersonville, North Carolina where a man named Austin Killips took first place in the “Women Overall” category, beating by a full five minutes the second-place female competitor named Paige Onwell.
After the event, BWR received complaints blasting the organization for allowing men to compete against women in the sport. BWR issued a statement saying it would review its policy regarding competitive categories.
“Since our first Belgian Waffle Ride event, we’ve strived to create as fair, inclusive, and unique a world-class experience as possible. We firmly believe that everyone, regardless of ethnicity, creed, color, sexual orientation, and sexual identification, possesses the inherent right to participate in our activities,” BWR wrote in a Facebook post.
“In keeping with our values and in response to feedback that we recently received from some cyclists after our most recent North Carolina race, we are reviewing our registration and competition rules,” BWR added. “We will consult with many of you as well as sponsors, volunteers, staff, other stakeholders, and relevant international regulatory bodies to identify best practices in this area.”
Studies have shown that biological men hold competitive advantages over biological women in athletic performance, which contributed to establishing separate competitive categories for men and women.
“The most consistent observation about the difference is that women have lower total mass of haemoglobin in their blood, compared to men, and less blood in total,” says Jamie Pringle, a physiologist who has coached world and Olympic champions. “This means less capacity to transport oxygen in the blood, which, when combined with the heart’s ability to pump that blood, and the muscle’s capacity to extract the oxygen from it, is a key determinant of aerobic fitness and endurance.”
As of July 9, the group reached a decision and has now announced that beginning August 1, 2023, the following racing classifications:
- Female: In the interest of protecting the parity of sports between women and men, racers who were born female may compete in the classification.
- Male: Racers who were born and/or identify as male may compete in this classification.
- Open: All racers, regardless of gender identification, may compete in this classification.
BWR says it is committed to “ensuring that all participants have equal access and opportunities to participate in our cycling events in a fair manner while preserving the integrity of the sport and respecting international regulations.”
The organization received numerous comments from followers on social media supporting the decision to bar men from racing against women.
“Thank you BWR for remembering to think of the rights of biological women whom have been thrown under the bus by other entities,” wrote a women using the account name Tish Kelly. “Thank you for recognizing the science. Thank you for making a new category to accommodate trans women so everyone gets to ride!”
A commenter named Tracy Gustafson posted, “Thank you BWR for following the science and keeping woman’s sports alive!”
BWR says it will award equal prize money for all three categories.