Cycling Twitter united this weekend in condemnation of a series of inflammatory and racist comments aimed at ‘non-traditional’ cycling countries.
The tweets were posted by La Flamme Rouge, the cycling stats website, and have since been deleted. They concerned the development of the sport in Africa and later extended to a defence of so-called “traditional” cycling values, purportedly only held by countries in western Europe.
In the context of the conversation about African cycling and representation, the user (one of La Flamme Rouge’s co-owners) tried to claim that professional road racing – a very Euro-centric sport with an extremely disproportionate number of white athletes and a spew of high-profile racist incidents in the past decade – did not have a racism problem.
The account later tweeted, “I like road cycling because it’s about tradition and like me many Dutch, Italians, Belgians, French and Spanish that are the core founders of the sport. Guest countries should not try to change rules and traditions of a sport they didn’t found, using their standards.”
The tweets were heavily criticised across social media, with some cycling websites announcing that they would no longer use La Flamme Rouge’s stage profiles in their race coverage.
— Nairo Quintana Fanclub (@NairoInGreen) January 8, 2022
Some used the account’s definition of “founders” and “guest countries” to highlight the success of riders from nations such as the UK, USA and Germany. However, others (such as the cycling journalist Kate Wagner) stressed the context in which the comment was made, one which centred on the lack of representation of black African cyclists in the peloton, and that “the whole sentiment was rooted in anti-blackness specifically.”
The furore follows similar provocative remarks made in December, when La Flamme Rouge’s co-owner labelled fans calling for greater coverage of women’s racing the “women’s cycling Taliban”.
One of the site’s other owners, Andrea Gurgone, has since published a statement describing the comments as a “disgrace”.
Regarding our Twitter account pic.twitter.com/iup139gxrr
— La Flamme Rouge (@laflammerouge16) January 8, 2022
“Over the past few months our Twitter account has gone from a fun place to chitchat about our beloved world of cycling into a negative sinkhole, where one of the co-owners felt the urge to make the account his own identity,” Gurgone wrote.
He went on to blame the lack of accountability for the site’s social media on a loose organisational structure, and later admitted that unsuccessful attempts were made to handle the situation nearly a year ago.
According to the statement the user in question no longer has access to the account. The future of La Flamme Rouge’s Twitter remains unclear.
Ryan joined road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.