Of the 415 men who make up the U.K.’s most elite professional bike riders, only one has come out as gay, Clay Davies, who rides for the Spirit Bontrager BSS Rotor team. But it took almost dying for him to realize he couldn’t be closeted anymore. In an interview last month with The British Continental, Davis recounted the origin of his epiphany.
“It took being knocked off my bike by a car nearly being killed, for me to come out. I broke both my arms and had my head crushed by the rear wheel of an Audi. That was my epiphany, the moment I decided to come out and tell people,” Davies shared. “But it shows how deeply in the closet I had been beforehand. I took quite literally nearly dying for me to reveal my sexuality. Basically, I thought, ‘Fuck it, I’m going to go and tell everyone now.’”
That event was roughly seven or eight years ago, according to Davies, and while he’s been out to his close friends, it wasn’t until last month that he declared his sexuality publically. He held off in part because of worries about how his fellow cyclists would react. “I think there’s this perception – whether it’s true or not, and I think it is to some degree –that serious amateur cyclists, pro cyclists, semi-pro, elite riders, whatever, are quite a funny bunch. That they’re not quite as socially dynamic as others, that there’s a bit of a closed mindset, a not-quite-as-worldly type of approach. That they might behave strangely if they knew you were gay,” he explained.
To back up his assertions, Davies shared some past experiences he had with homophobia in cycling. “I was at the Eastern region road race championships two or three years ago. There were some homophobic slurs being thrown around the bunch. It wasn’t just banter. It was nasty,” he said. “I distinctly remember it. It made me so angry that I bridged across to the break. I was so bloody angry, I said, ‘Screw this’ and emptied myself to get across and placed third.”
Davies explained that if cyclists want their culture to change, it needs to begin with management — something that has yet to happen a month out from his interview. Speaking with the daily cycling podcast Quicklink, Davies said that while the response to his coming out has been “entirely positive,” he has yet to actually hear a single thing from British Cycling. “It’s shocking, to be honest, that BC haven’t reached out to me directly. It’s been three weeks now,” Davies revealed. “How hard is it for BC to do that? They’ve got my contact details. My name’s not exactly difficult to find, is it? How hard is it for them to send me a one-liner to say, ‘Yes we’ve read it, yes we’re on it, we will get back in touch if we need anything from you’? But, not had a thing."
As for what BC is doing to protect its LGBTQ+ cyclists, Davies has a dim view. “We’re starting from a pretty low baseline of understanding with BC. They’re 10 years in the past. Probably more, to be brutally honest,” he admitted. “I think it’s all about the management there, understanding what the issue is properly with the right quality of staff dare I say it. Then them getting a plan of action in place.”
“They just need to start from scratch really. I gather they have some sort of diversity board type thing.
But unless it [#LGBTQIA+ prejudice] is […] near the very top of the priority list and linked to dare I say funding and sponsors,” Davies added.
Despite his views on the current state of things, Davies remains hopeful the situation will improve over time. His decision to come out publicly will undoubtedly be remembered as a pivotal moment in the process.