Yohann Gene Makes History as First Black Cyclist in Tour de France

Thought we had broken through every racial sports barrier? Think again. I was surprised myself when I heard about this, but meet Yohann Gene, the first Black cyclist to take part in the Tour de France.

Yohann, 30, took his place Friday in the 218 km seventh stage of the Tour de France cycling race run between Le Mans and Chateauroux, center France. The Guadeloupian member of the Europcar team has been a professional racer since 2005. He moved to Europe when he was 17 and quickly discovered a passion for biking that would lead him to an accomplished future.

“When I ride, I see all kinds of landscapes. I feel free,” Yohann said in a Time World article. Yohann always pictured himself racing, but not in an event as popular as the Tour de France. “I always dreamed of the Paris-Roubaix — because of its audience and its warrior-like competitors who always risk falling.”

Even though racial barriers have been broken down in other sports, and cycling also, Yohann still had to face racism along the way.

“We have been subject to racism,” says his manager Jean-Rene Bernaudeau. “I had to deal with a few problems and contact sponsors of two foreign teams about it. After the doping incidents, I couldn’t let racism be part of cycling.”

Yohann’s teammates and peers look to him as a model teammate and vital to support. Great to see more racial barriers being broken in professional sports.

21 thoughts on “Yohann Gene Makes History as First Black Cyclist in Tour de France

  • As a black man who happens to love cycling and at the age of 44, im sad to hear this sport in 2011 has racial issues. I spend alot of time and money in the cycling field and i hope in the very, very near future this sport will reflect the cyclist we see day to day, all colors enjoying the sport. Darryl Brandon of So, California.

  • It is sad that there would be racism in cycling today. Perhaps you guys can do more features on African American cyclists? I would recommend Rahsaan Bahati. He is well known in the criterium racing circuits in California. He is also the founder of the Bahati Foundation, whose mission is to bring cycling to inner city youth. However, last I heard, they were struggling financially. But cycling is definitely not a sport that is glamorized here in the United States. Let’s face it, we wear spandex in crazy colors, and riding a bike on the streets of the inner cities is not recommended. Additionally, it’s an expensive sport. Your introductory road bike is $1000 and it goes up from there. The lack of numbers does not justify the racism however.

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