A former women’s cycling champion angrily quit the sport after losing to a transgender rider — a decision followed just days later by another trans cyclist declaring she felt like a “superhero” for her women’s race win in New York.
Champion cyclocross rider Hannah Arensman bolstered her decision with a statement in a Supreme Court filing on the issue.
“I have decided to end my cycling career,” Arensman said last Wednesday.
She said in her last race, in the elite women’s division of the UCI Cyclocross National Championships in late December, she “came in 4th place, flanked on either side by male riders awarded 3rd and 5th places.”
“My sister and family sobbed as they watched a man finish in front of me, having witnessed several physical interactions with him throughout the race,” she wrote, in a statement also shared by the Independent Council on Women’s Sports (ICONS).
“Additionally, it is difficult for me to think about the very real possibility I was overlooked for an international selection on the US team at Cyclocross Worlds in February 2023 because of a male competitor.”
She said that it “has become increasingly discouraging to train as hard as I do only to have to lose to a man with the unfair advantage of an androgenized body that intrinsically gives him an obvious advantage over me, no matter how hard I train.”
“I feel for young girls learning to compete and who are growing up in a day when they no longer have a fair chance at being the new record holders and champions in cycling,” she wrote.
“I have felt deeply angered, disappointed, overlooked, and humiliated that the rule makers of women’s sports do not feel it is necessary to protect women’s sports to ensure fair competition for women anymore,” she wrote in the filing.
On Saturday, trans cyclist Tiffany Thomas, 47, was photographed with her arms aloft in victory at the top of the podium at the Randall’s Island Crit — at least her 20th win since she started racing in 2018, while already in her 40s.
“I’m not going to lie, sometimes it made me feel like a superhero when I wore it,” she said alongside one image of her fully focused on the NYC race.
“Playing bikes with friends is what this sport is all about,” the self-styled “fancier of fitness,” wrote alongside another.
Thomas — who also regularly posts pics of her weightlifting — received love and support in response to her messages, with one person writing: “You are a superhero and one of the smartest scientists I know!!”
But her win soon started a severe backlash — with an NYC cycling outlet that posted her podium pics disabling the flood of angry comments.
One critic said they “feel so bad for woman athletes in America that have trained their entire lives” to lose out to transgender athletes who some experts say carry a genetic advantage even after hormone therapy.
“We are destroying woman’s rights in America,” the anonymous critic tweeted.
A fellow cyclist, using the hashtag #SaveWomensSports, said that Thomas had gone “from a total beginner to the elite level in just 5 years.”
“Tiffany’s teammates are all between the ages of 24 and 32. Amazing that Tiffany can keep up with them at the age of 46 after only starting cycling at age 40!” she wrote sarcastically.
Thomas on Thursday directly addressed the backlash to her own win.
The “intent was to intimidate and harass transgender athletes (in this case me) to make our lives as miserable as possible so that we leave the sport,” she wrote of the backlash.
“Transgender people are humans and deserve respect. Inclusion policies are a work in progress; bullying, harassment, and threats of violence have no place in this process,” she wrote.
She also insisted that the racers who flanked her on the podium were her “two best friends” who “are just as strong as me.”
“I just happened to have a better day on that particular day. They will assuredly beat me at future races,” she said.
One fellow racer told her that it was “an absolute honor to race with you, my beautiful friend.”
Another supporter replied, “You deserve to celebrate your victories! … You’re an inspiration to so many of us.”
In earlier posts, Thomas raised fears that her controversy would “come at the cost of lost sponsors and support to my teammates.”
“I will be okay, but I am scared. I think that most transgender people are scared right now. Most of us are just trying to make it through the day,” she wrote.
“Bikes and barbells continue to bring me joy so I will continue to pedal, lift heavy a@$ weights, and I will show up for my community because that is how we will make the world a better place. Eventually.”
Her sponsor, LA Sweat, told her: “Your existence on this team does nothing but immensely add to it with your teamwork and motivation. We got you!”