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Cyclocrosser Justin Laevens just leaped over one of pro cycling’s toughest barriers.
This week Laevens announced he is gay, making him one of the first male pro cyclists to publicly come out as LGBT+. In an interview with Belgian website SportNU.be, Laevens, who is an Under-23 rider on the Proximus-AlphaMotorhomes-Doltcini team, said that he hopes to be an example for other gay athletes who are hesitant to be public about their true selves.
“Out in the sports world is difficult. I want to be an example for everyone who is still in their shell,” said Laevens.
Laevents hails from Zwevegem in West Flanders and is 19 years old. He said he spent the last two years contemplating his decision to speak to the media. The hesitation, he said, came from the lack of professional male riders who have come out as LGBT+.
“I didn’t find it difficult to express myself, but I did in sport, because I don’t know any [rider] who is gay,” he said.
Over the years numerous female cyclists have been open about their sexuality, from German star Judith Arndt to Italian Georgina Bronzini and Swedish rider Emilia Fahlin. Two-time U.S. Olympian Lea Davison in 2020 spoke to Reuters about her decision to be more public about her sexuality with her fans and sponsors.
There are fewer examples of pro riders opening up in professional men’s cycling.
“It was a big step,” Laevens said. “My parents were very positive about it. I was especially afraid of the reactions of bigger riders or teams, but I don’t think that’s the case. ”
Laevens is set to compete in Belgium’s national cyclocross championships this Sunday in Meulebeke, where he will compete against Wout van Aert, Toon Aerts, and the other stars of Belgian ‘cross. Laevens said he expects it to be a battle.
“Many people think it is an honor to cycle among those big men, but it is very tough,” he said. “As promised, we start at the very back.”