The final day of the Tour de France is one of a procession where the riders, happy after enduring three long weeks of torment head to Paris to take on the cobbles on the Champs-Élysées for a sprint finish. Won this year by the Green Jersey wearer, Sam Bennet. The first time the Green Jersey has won a sprint on the final stage since a certain Mark Cavendish in 2011.
However, before that even began there was the smallest of nods to the Black Lives Matter movement. Something so small it was almost insignificant. The riders each wore their face masks before the start of the stage with various Sharpie scribblings of End Racism or No To Racism. They wore these for a bit then took them off.
Le Tour even tweeted some pictures with various riders wearing the masks and managed to remember to put a picture of Kevin Reza in its tweet too, the sole black cyclists at the Tour de France. Reza was allowed to show his face next to the other classification leaders with the masks on before disappearing back in to the peloton before the cameras came out for the wearers of the coveted jerseys.
There was a massive open goal missed here by the organisers of the Tour, ASO and by the UCI themselves. Other sports really have been leading by example. Football started by taking a knee, F1, who’s brightest star, Lewis Hamilton, is the sole black driver on the grid, at every race acknowledges the BLM movement at every race. There doesn’t seem to be a sport who isn’t making a contribution in some way, except cycling.
Cycling as a sport is so undeniably white its bizarre. From the riders in the peloton to the journalists who report on it, seeing a black person is rare. Cycling is crying out for diversity, it needs a hero a show of strength a unification and a bond. What it got was a whimsical flash for the cameras to say “we’re doing something” but it’s not.
Politics and sport so hand in hand, they just do, they cross over so much that for anyone to say that they don’t want their sport tarnished with politics, tough. Sport is political. If it wasn’t why do world leaders turn up to World Cup Finals, why do countries bid for major tournaments, why does Christian Prudhomme ride with the French President at every Tour?
And for anyone reading this thinking ‘All Lives Matter’ that is exactly the point. All lives do matter which is why you should be doing all you can to recognise, educate and familiarise yourself with your surroundings and that of people who are not as privileged as you.
The effort shown at the Tour to highlight the major lack of diversity in cycling is pitiful. Pathetically pathetic. Rumour has it that it was the riders themselves, that after three weeks of racing, organised the face-masks and pen. Not even ASO or the UCI. Nothing would have stood in the way of either company making sure each rider had a Black Lives Matter t-shirt which could and should have been worn in the neutralised racing zone and then took off before racing started in earnest. This could have been done at the start of each days racing. One simple t-shirt could have done so much to change the face of the sport.
It would have been better for the sport had they done nothing. Now the tour is complete and the organisers are satisfied that they put on one of the best Tour’s we have seen in recent years and they also acknowledged the BLM movement. People will say it’s a start and that the sport is on it’s path to diversity, instead it is a mask, which ironically covers the mouth so you can’t speak out.