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Much of the Tour de France peloton made a small anti-racism gesture on the ride to Paris, donning hand-written masks in solidarity against racism and in support of the Tour’s only Black rider, Kevin Reza of B&B Hotels-Vital Concept.
Reza, who was born not far from Sunday’s start, hit the front of the peloton along with the jersey winners during the final stage’s processional early kilometers. Many teams and riders came to the start wearing masks reading “End Racism” or “No to racism” in marker.
“Finally, it took the world’s biggest race for the message to be heard,” Reza said. “I couldn’t make myself clear on this subject. Its nice to see positive reactions. Today, the ASO allowed me to deliver the message by riding on the front. There’s still a lot of work to do. This is a great start.”
Throughout the summer, as much of the sporting world made visible, consistent efforts to demand change, the Tour peloton remained silent until Sunday. NBA players have refused to play games, Lewis Hamilton and a collection of fellow F1 drivers have taken a knee before every Grand Prix this season, European football leagues have placed “No room for racism” messages on athlete’s jerseys.
Reza has been the recipient of racial abuse from within the peloton in the past. In 2014, he was racially abused by Michael Albasini in stage 16 of the Tour de France. In 2017, Gianni Moscon threw racial slurs at Reza in the Tour de Romandie. Team Sky called the abuse “unacceptable” at the time and pledged to deal with Moscon internally.
Last week, Reza discussed those incidents with Cyclingnews. “Was there solidarity? Not really,” he said. “My close friends in the peloton came to see me to tell me that they supported me, and that they were affected by what had happened. But in a general way, no, I didn’t really feel a wider solidarity in the peloton to call attention to what happened.”