Kevin Reza, the only black rider competing at the Tour de France, says cycling has a "lot to learn and is really far behind" when it comes to racism and diversity.
Athletes across the sporting world have shown support for Black Lives Matter protests, but professional cycling has remained largely silent.
Reza (B&B Hotels - Vital Concept) joined Eurosport's Orla Chennaoui to explain why the sport has a long way to go.
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"There are people who wanted to move the furniture around in cycling, but they gave up," Reza said.
It shows that cycling isn’t ready to evolve in that way. It’s complicated, it’s difficult to make certain people understand that cycling needs to be refreshed like other sports, because there are a lot of sports that are changing in this way and progressing with regards to racism, but certainly, cycling has a lot to learn and is really far behind in that regard.
‘Look at your belly button less’ – Kevin Reza calls on white riders to address racism
Reza opened up about his own experiences of racism in the peloton, citing two incidents from the 2014 Tour de France and 2017 Tour de Romandie.
He was allegedly called a "dirty n***o" by Michael Albasini at the 2014 Tour, although Albasini denied using racist language and said it was a "misunderstanding".
Then, at the 2017 race in Switzerland, Gianni Moscon was suspended by Team Sky for six weeks and sent on a diversity awareness course for using racially abusive language towards Reza.
However, Moscon was not disciplined by the UCI, cycling’s governing body, and the Italian later insisted his "conscience is clear".
"The first time, ASO took the initiative, asked me what I thought, what I wanted to do with regards Albasini," he said.
"I was very young, it was my first Tour de France and I wanted to concentrate on what I had to do on the bike, I decided to leave it at the race, because they gave me the choice.
"But the second time, with Moscon, I didn’t get a single message from the Tour and the organisation, no support at all, it was all done under the water, it was very complicated."
Kevin Reza (2.v.r.) ist der einzige dunkelhäutige Fahrer bei der Tour de France 2020
Image credit: Getty Images
Asked if he had a message for his white colleagues, Reza continued: "I'd ask them, quite simply, given everything that's going on around the world, not to ignore it.
"Because even among my closer friends and teammates, we don't speak about it very much. I find that a pity because it's been in the news for months now. I'm not sure if it's just passed them by or if they don't feel comfortable talking about it.
"But it's in the news and I'm also the only black rider on the team and so I'm really the right person to ask and to speak to about the topic.
I know that now I would probably react very differently to some of the throwaway comments and banter I have received. Before, I let a lot of it pass over me. Perhaps people would have taken it badly if I stood up for myself.
"If I had a message now for my white colleagues it would be talk about it and pay more attention to what is going on around them."
Representation from minority ethnic groups in both amateur and professional cycling is extremely low, as highlighted in Tom Bennett’s long-read on cycling’s diversity issue.
So what hope does Reza have for the sport improving diversity in the future?
"Hope is always good to have," he said. "As you’ve said, I’m not a spokesperson but I try to show the path that I must. I try to have a role that’s quite discreet, but also present.
"After that, it’s up to young black riders to show they’re capable of succeeding like me, to not give up and say it’s a white sport, not at all.
"It’s a sport that, like others, demands a lot of sacrifice. I’ve been a pro for 10 years now and I’m afraid I might be the last from Guadeloupe. I hope I’m wrong. I have a bit of trouble speaking about diversity because we’re all the same, and we try to do our jobs the best we possibly can."
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