The 2020 Tour de France peloton made a small gesture of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and Kévin Reza.
Reza, who races for B&B Hotels-Vital Concept, is the only black rider in this year’s edition of the Tour, and has highlighted pro cycling’s silence on Black Lives Matter, while other sports have made notable gestures of solidarity.
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On the final day of racing in France, stage 21 from Mantes-la-Jolie to Paris, the Tour organiser ASO and the peloton showed their support for the movement, albeit in a small way.
Reza, who was born not far from the start of stage 21 in Versailles, rode at the head of the peloton near the race winner Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) and the other classification leaders.
He said: “Finally. It took the world’s biggest race for the message to pass. I couldn’t make myself clear on this subject. Nice to see positive reactions. ASO allows me today to deliver the message by starting a a frontliner. There’s still a lot of work to do. This is a great start.
“Hope the movement continues after, we’ve got to keep going and see what we can do. It’s hard to talk about it, to make yourself understand. One wrong word and it can be distorted. I feel able and free to talk about it today. I just want to. Thinking about actions to take.
“I will try to do this right with strong guidelines. This relieves me because I couldn’t talk about it a few years ago when I was younger. I feel soothed.”
Riders also sported coronavirus masks which featured the slogan #NoToRacism before the stage.
EF Pro Cycling rider Tejay van Garderen said before the stage: “On stage 19 a couple of riders came up to me asking my opinion on race relations and how we can make a statement, because we realised we’re the only professional sport that hasn’t done anything in that capacity and we needed to change that.
“We’re going to use the Covid-19 facecoverings with the hashtag no to racism written across so when we go to sign-on or give interviews, everyone can see plain as day that we as cyclists are against racism.
“It’s a problem that affects the whole world, it’s not just a problem in one sport or in one walk of life or in one country, it’s something that affects us all and it’s something that needs to be stamped out.
“We as cyclists do not tolerate intolerance. I’m really proud of the riders and the stance we’re taking.”
Van Garderen said the riders came up with the idea in the group chat with the rider’s union, the CPA.
Gianni Bugno, the former pro and now head the CPA, said: “The riders are sensitive people, they are men and women active in the society, who reject discrimination in the world. I am happy that the Telegram [instant messaging] group we are using during the races is used to share opinions, not only for cycling issues.”
Reza was seen near the front of the bunch in the neutralised zone of stage 21, but there was some confusion among fans and pundits about what the protest would involved, as some thought Reza might ride at the head of the race alone but ASO had previously announced the gesture would be Reza riding at the front with the leaders.