Tayler Wiles (Trek-Segafredo) believes the men’s side of the sport is still some way behind the women’s when it comes to riders being able to open up about their sexuality.
In an interview with CyclingNews’ Laura Weislo, the American veteran pro who has spent the last two seasons on Trek–Segafredo observed a stark difference between the respective environments of men’s and women’s racing.
“I felt very lucky to come out in women's cycling because it is very common,” Wiles said. “There are a lot of gay women in the sport and I've always had teammates that were gay. I felt like it was such a nice environment to come out in.”
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Wiles, a stage-racing specialist and former winner of the Tour of the Gila and the Tour de l’Ardèche, went on to observe that the men’s peloton can seem less welcoming or receptive of gay riders.
“I hope it becomes more open and accepting in the men's peloton because it's really such a lovely environment in the women's peloton. I'm happy to see that it's starting to get easier, even if it's little by little.”
Cycling is by no means an exception in the fact that it has more openly gay women at the highest level than men, but the culture of men’s professional cycling is, nevertheless, a notoriously conservative one.
In most sports, the men’s side is dominated by a perceived idea of machismo and stoicism, Wiles went on to say.
“There aren't many male sports where you see a lot of out athletes. In women's sports, it's much more common. It is a lot of that masculine macho stuff that men are taught when they're young, it's kind of beat into them – don't be vulnerable, don't show weakness – being feminine at all would be the worst thing ever.”
There is hope, Wiles says, for the future of men’s cycling.
“I think that culture is slowly changing just because of the way people are parenting boys now, it's not quite where we need it to be but teaching men from a young age that vulnerability is OK I think is the way forward.”
Wiles couldn’t resist a joke about the men’s half of the Trek-Segafredo franchise.
"But now, the tough boy macho stuff is alive and well – I can tell you because we have a men's team.”
With women’s racing even harder hit than men’s, with an already patchy calendar basically decimated by the coronavirus pandemic, it is unclear as yet when Wiles will begin her season. Her team is scheduled to race at Strade Bianche where the leadership will be shared by Lizzie Deignan and Elisa Longo Borghini.
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