Transgender cyclist wins women’s Tour of the Gila - reaction as Austin Killips wins race in New Mexico

Killips has become first transwoman to secure Tour of the Gila title

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Austin Killips has become the first transgender woman to secure the title at the Tour of the Gila in New Mexico, United States. The 27-year-old finished the final stage in just over three hours taking the top spot on the podium ahead of Marcela Prieto and Cassandra Nelson. Killips won the entire race by 89 seconds and will take home the $53,000 prize for her efforts.

Her achievement, however, has been met with heavy criticism. Killips’ name first came to prominence back in March after being cited by the former cyclo-cross champion Hannah Arensman in a Supreme Court filing. Arensman lost out on a podium place to Killips back in the national finals in December and later accused her opponent of repeatedly shoving her during the race.

Killips could make the US Olympic women’s cycling team in Paris next summer, should the UCI - the global governing body - maintain its policy of allowing transgender riders to compete as long as they suppress their testosterone levels below 2.5 nanomoles per litre over a two-year period.

Austin Killips (R) won the recent Tour de Gila in New MexicoAustin Killips (R) won the recent Tour de Gila in New Mexico
Austin Killips (R) won the recent Tour de Gila in New Mexico

What did Killips say?

Taking to social media following her win, Austin Killips posted: “After a week of nonsense on the internet I’m especially thankful to everyone in the peloton and sport who continue to affirm that twitter is not real life. I love my peers and competitiors and am grateful for every opportunity I get to learn and grow as a person and athlete on course together. Hug your friends, ride bikes together and never forget that a better world is possible.”

What are the UCI policies?

As mentioned, the UCI currently has a liberal transgender policy which stands very much against that of the World Athletics’ approach which bans all post-puberty males from the female category. The UCI allows transgender riders to compete as long as their testosterone levels are kept below 2.5 nanomoles per litre for the two-year period. A female’s natural level is usually 0.5 while males have between 10 and 35.

What has the reaction been?

The former cyclo-cross world champion Alison Sydor has slammed the UCI rules and claimed that transgender athletes are ‘gender-doping’. Taking to Twitter, Sydor said: “Going from the Male> Female category (gender doping) in cycling sport I’d argue is no different funcationally than doping. What also isn’t right about this situation @UCI_cycling mandates is the difference in the anti doping rules and policies TW v Female athletes have to abide by.

“Trans women can modify their bodies with drugs to gain advantage in sport ie move from the male to female category while female cyclists must abide by all antidoping rules, compete with their ‘natural talents’ (bodies) only to uphold the ‘spirit of sport’.

Fellow world champion cyclo-cross raider Hannah Arensman also lashed out at the governing body as she believes they have failed to protect the sanctity of the women’s competition. In a document which was recently submitted to the US court, Arensman said she was retiring from the sport because transgender women were infiltrating the sport and in her final race, there was footage of Killips pushing her over as she tried to overtake.

The document said: “I have decided to end my cycling career. At my last race at the recent UCI cyclocross National Championships in the elite women’s category in December 2022, I cam in fourth place, flanked either side by male riders awarded third and fifth places. My sister and family sobbed as they watched a man finish in front of me, having witnessed several physical interactions with him throughout the race.

“I feel for young girls learning to compete, who no longer have a fair chance at being the new record-holders and champions in cycling because men want to compete in our division.”

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