Belgian cross racer Justin Laevens comes out as gay

Laevens is one of just a small handful of elite male cyclists to publicly come out of the closet.

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Belgian U23 cyclocross racer Justin Laevens is gay, he told SportNU.be in an interview, making him one of just a small handful of elite male cyclists to publicly come out of the closet. 

Representation of LGBTQ+ individuals within the upper echelons of men’s professional cycling is all but non-existent. Like in many men’s professional sports, stigma around sexuality has long kept riders from coming out, fearing negative reactions of managers and fans and negative impacts on their careers. 

Laeven hopes that he can help lead the way to changing those perceptions, he said. 

“Being out in the sports world is difficult,” Laevens said. “I hope I can set an example for other athletes, for riders or for cyclocrossers who may still be hidden in their shell.”

That sentiment mirrors the words of other riders seeking to pushing cycling toward a more inclusive future. In April of last year, American elite road racer Paul Hartner, 21, came out as queer on an episode of the CyclingTips Podcast. 

“I think it’s fear of the unknown,” Hartner said. “There’s not really anyone leading the peloton as an out queer. You look at that and you’re like, well, there’s probably a reason nobody’s done it, right?”

Laevens, who is 19 years old, will line up at the Belgian cyclocross national championships in the elite category on Sunday, as the U23 race was cancelled due to COVID restrictions. 

“I had been thinking about it for two years. It was a big step,” Laevens told SportNU.be. “My parents were very positive about it. I was especially afraid of the reactions of bigger riders or teams, that they would look at me differently, but I don’t think that’s the case.”

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