Marlon Moncrieffe is on a mission to change cycling. In fact, the Brighton University lecturer would argue that his goal is to help the sport become the best version of itself. The aim of his work, he says on this week’s Cycling Show, is “to advance the sport, to make it much more accessible for all willing people, of all ethnicities, in all colours.”
Through his academic writing, and through his art, Moncrieffe has sought to raise the profile of those he calls Black Champions of Cycling. They are the individuals whose contributions to the sport he believes have been historically under-recognised.
They include Russell Williams, whose career in cycling spanned from the late 70s to the early 2000s. Williams won 18 national championships and was “always knocking on the door, but with the setup at the time when he was racing, he just wasn't allowed in.”
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Williams represented Great Britain just once at the World Track Championships, in 1986, and has since said he was left with the impression the selectors "would rather send nobody than send a Black man".
Another name Moncrieffe has highlighted is that of multiple British track champion, and successful six-day racer, Maurice Burton. Despite competing for England at the Commonwealth Games in 1974 and being an obvious pick for the Olympics two years later, Burton was denied a place in the team. He spoke at length to Eurosport in 2020 about his experience of racism in cycling. British Cycling say they are striving to "ensure that everyone feels free to participate regardless of their age, ability, gender, disability, race, parental or marital status, religion or belief or sexual orientation."

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Although Black riders are slowly breaking through to the men’s and women’s World Tours, they are still exceptions while the rule remains very white. That the likes of Teniel Campbell (Bike Exchange Jayco), who comes from Trinidad and Tobago, and Biniam Girmay (Intermarche Wanty Gobert), who won last weekend’s Gent-Wevelgem, spring to mind so easily only serves to prove Moncrieffe’s point that the sport has a history of a lack of diverse representation.
"Cycling... is it a racist sport? I would say that it is racist, yeah," Moncrieffe tells Eurosport on the latest episode of The Cycling Show, which is available to watch now on discovery+.
“What I’ve tried to do is show the sport through a different lens. A black lens, a black imagination.”
With Campbell, Moncrieffe admits “it's almost as if she's representing the entire human race as a Black woman. It's not fair on her and it's not fair on black people. There needs to be broader investment.”
Moncrieffe points to the fact that almost none have come from the historically successful cycling countries.
“There are some opportunities for Black riders from the African continent to race on the World Tour, but from a European perspective, from the UK, the USA - none. We haven’t really seen anyone progress to that level.”

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He contrasts cycling with athletics, which has seen no small amount of success on the world stage for British athletes of colour.
“Where Black cyclists have aimed to reach the highest point in the sport, their careers have been stymied,” he says.
Moncrieffe has been particularly outspoken in his criticism of British Cycling. Despite pouring many millions of pounds into its elite development programme, over several Olympic cycles, the organisation has yet to produce a Black professional cyclist or Olympic medallist. Although “there's been some movement to address that gap,” he says, “we haven't really seen that transcend into racing at the national level.”
He adds, however, that “it's not just about national bodies.”
For despite not being cheap for the individual to get into, compared to other professional sports cycling has relatively low financial barriers to entry. Moncrieffe envisages a scenario in which a wealthy individual decides to “invest a billion pounds into African cycling,” aiming “to bring an East African team to the Tour de France, to do just as well as Team Ineos.”
“It can be done,” he says. “I’d like to see a Black British champion racing at the Tour de France for a British team.”
Dr Moncrieffe is a principal lecturer in the school of education at the University of Brighton. He is the author of Desire, Determination, Discrimination: Black Champions in Cycling, published by Rapha Editions.

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