As a young African American cyclist and cycling coach, I have contemplated the reasons
why cycling hasn’t seen more black cyclist other than Yohann Ge’ne, (who rode for team
Europcar in the 2011 TDF). Well, there was a black rider in the 1913 Tour; Ali Neffati, from
Tunisia, who was brought over by tour organizer Henri Desgrange.
I dream of several young African American men competing on cycling’s largest world
stage. American cycling has a great youth program through USA Cycling, with several African
American professionals coming up through the ranks. Erik Saunders rode in the Tour of Georgia
and raced in Europe. Rashaan Bahati is the 2008 national criterium champion and is a respected
rider in all circles.
It is only fair to note that it is hard for any rider, black or white, to make a pro squad, let
alone have the potential of being invited to the Grand Tour. In 2011 the Tour de France selected
22 teams for the race. Four of those teams were domestic teams from France. About 3 of those
teams were based in America, but only 10 Americans rode for all the teams. Each team selects 9
riders to race in France during the month of July. In order for a rider to make it to the Tour de
France, he has to first make it onto a Tour de France squad. The squad is a carefully selected
international pro team. Making it onto the squad is no easy accomplishment!
With several clubs in a variety of cities, the African American community has produced
very skilled pro riders. So what is the hold up?
Cycling is a relatively small sport compared to baseball, basketball, football, track,
swimming, tennis, soccer, and just about any other team sports leading the charge. When vying
for attention against all these sports, the challenge arises to get youth interested in cycling.
Additionally, the initial setup for cycling is no small investment. However, it isn’t unheard of
for sponsors to step up to help teams and individuals. Even clubs at the junior level have been
fortunate to have several sponsors.
I think the future is bright for African American cyclist to represent on the largest cycling
stage ever created. But just like in any other sport, riders must start at a young age. Local clubs
need to step out into their communities to encourage future cyclists. Community cycling leaders
should consider becoming certified coaches through USA Cycling so that they can support and
channel the up-and-coming cyclists. If you have a cycling, coaching, or physiology background,
get involved with a junior team. Become a mentor to youth groups, take them under your wings,
and consider sponsoring them. Pound the pavement and find quality sponsors for your junior
teams. This requires building relationships with community businesses, bicycle manufacturers,
and just about anyone interested and involved in cycling. Increase your networking and support
by leveraging local group rides and your local bike shop.
As a cycling coach, I take pride in knowing that I could be coaching the next Tour de
France champion. You have the ability to be part of this dream. Through hard work, faith, and
perseverance, anything is possible.
Owner/Head Coach - The Lead Pack Cycling Group
USAC Cycling Coach