High-level cycling competition arrives in Fayetteville for the first time | News

Cyclists from around the world united January 28-30 to Centennial Park for the 2022 Union Cycliste Internationale World Cyclo-Cross Championship, putting Fayetteville in the history books of competitive cycling.

The weekend was the second time in the event’s 72-year history that the championship was held in the United States. Competitors from more than 30 countries competed in seven different events for the world championship title and accompanying medal and rainbow jersey.

Cyclo-cross is a cycling discipline in which cyclists must complete a loop course and overcome natural obstacles. These obstacles can include rocks, mud and sand. The natural elements turn the race into a “frenzied and spectator-friendly” event, according to the World Championship website.

Championship weekend began with an opening ceremony at Fayetteville Downtown Square on Thursday night. The races started on Friday with the team relay. The men’s and women’s championships took place on Saturday and Sunday.

James Emeric, a senior, volunteered to help vendors get set up for the weekend. While Emeric primarily rides mountain bikes, he frequently bikes at Centennial Park and was confident the championship would show what northwest Arkansas has to offer the cyclo-cross world, he said. he declares. The championship taking place in Fayetteville showed not only the prevalence of cycling culture in the United States, but also the quality of opportunity in Arkansas, Emeric said.

“I think it’s great discipline,” Emeric said. “He has a lot of growth and potential in this region.”

Kai Tenich, senior and avid cyclo-crosser, has helped publicity efforts for the championships through his marketing internship at Red Bull. The world championship is not the first time a UCI event has taken place in northwest Arkansas.

Bentonville hosted the Red Bull UCI Pump Track last summer, which Tenich also competed in. He is interested in the many different disciplines of cycling and how cyclists will find their particular niche in the sport of the NWA as its cycling culture continues to grow.

“Cycling in Fayetteville is huge,” Tenich said. “There are so many places to explore and different things to do.”

Cyclists make their way to the entrance to Centennial Park during the 2022 UCI Cyclo-Cross World Championship. This year’s championship, held from Friday to Sunday in Fayetteville, was the second in its 72-year history of the competition to take place in the United States.

Emeric is excited about how bringing high profile events to the region could benefit outdoor recreation and bolster Arkansas’ credibility as a cycling state, and the immediate economic impact the championship had on the NWA community.

“We may not have world championship-scale stuff in Fayetteville for quite a long time, if ever,” he said. “I’m confident this will help us gain access to more tours and grow our community.”

As cycling’s popularity grows in Arkansas, many members of the LGBTQ+ community have raised questions about the ethics of holding major competitions in a state with laws targeting the transgender community.

In March 2021, Governor Asa Hutchinson signed Bill 461, dubbed the “Women’s Sports Equity Act”. The law prohibits public institutions from allowing transgender women and girls to compete on women’s sports teams.

Later that year, the Arkansas General Assembly passed Bill 626, the “Save Adolescents From Experimentation Act,” which prohibited medical professionals from providing gender-affirming health care to minors. U.S. District Judge Jay Moody blocked Bill 626 in July 2021, but Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge filed an appeal still pending in August.

Molly Cameron was the first openly transgender cyclist to compete in the UCI Cyclo-Cross World Cup, which took place in Fayetteville in October 2021. She returned to Arkansas to watch the world championship and hand out wristbands from her foundation advocacy, Riders Inspiring Diversity and Equality (RIDE), to interested individuals. Although Arkansas’ anti-trans laws are still in place, Cameron said RIDE received unprecedented support during the competition.

Cameron didn’t come to the race to make it a political event, but when a state has damaging laws, it would be irresponsible for cyclists not to address them, she said.

“I don’t go to events and these communities ask people to wear RIDE wristbands,” Cameron said. “But there were runners wearing a RIDE wristband at every event.”

The entire US relay team wore RIDE wristbands on the podium when they placed second. For Cameron, that was saying a lot. The gesture showed that, despite regressive legislation, the cycling community is passionate about transgender inclusion, she said.

“It was amazing, and it had never happened in cycling before,” she said. “I brought 6,000 groups on Friday, at least 6,000 on Saturday and 10,000 on Sunday, and they all left.”

About Robert James

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