Bradley Wiggins has praised Kevin Reza for speaking out about cycling’s silence surrounding racism and diversity.
In a powerful interview with Eurosport’s Orla Chennaoui, Reza said that the sport had a "lot to learn" and urged his fellow professionals to wake up to the issue.
"There are people who wanted to move the furniture around in cycling, but they gave up," Reza, who is the only black rider in this year’s Tour de France, said.
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It shows that cycling isn’t ready to evolve in that way. It’s complicated, it’s difficult to make certain people understand that cycling needs to be refreshed like other sports, because there are a lot of sports that are changing in this way and progressing with regards to racism, but certainly, cycling has a lot to learn and is really far behind in that regard.
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Wiggins, speaking on The Breakaway after Stage 19 of the Tour and then subsequently on his Eurosport podcast, urged the UCI, cycling's governing body, to drive change in the sport.
"I think it’s a very brave thing what Kevin Reza has done and I know he doesn’t want to become a face for it, but the tragedy of the whole thing is how backwards this sport is in many ways," said Wiggins.
The people in power focus way too much on issues that are way beneath issues like racism. It needs addressing, it has to start at the top and I think there is incompetence at the top of the sport, there is a power position and nothing that qualifies them to be in that position.
"This one issue is clearly still a closet issue within cycling that certain people are out there trying to do something about, like Mani," he said, in reference to his guest on the podcast Mani Arthur from the Black Cyclists Network.
"It should not be an issue, it is 2020. Kevin, I just felt really sorry for him. Someone has got to do something about it. Sod the Tour de France, let's talk about something that actually needs sorting out.
"The day we have a black UCI president who is an ex-rider or such and such, that will be the biggest movement forward.
"The fact this is raised now, it’s almost a shame it’s happened at the end of Tour de France."
Kevin Reza (B&B Hotels - Vital Concept)
Image credit: Getty Images
Wiggins referenced Gianni Moscon’s six-week ban for racially abusing Reza at the Tour de Romandie in 2017, saying that if the Italian had instead been caught doping he would have been booted out by Team Sky.
"It’s punishments for the likes of Gianni Moscon which need to be stamped out, the fact he admitted to it, there is a zero-tolerance policy at Ineos for doping, then there should be for that kind of thing," Wiggins said.
"Bigotry in 2020, that’s a character trait engrained in him from his environment and upbringing, you’re not born a bigot.
"Kevin Reza has just as much right to race in the peloton as anybody else. He probably feels so alone in this world.
"Where is the leader of our sport at the moment?" he continued on the podcast. "The fact that we have to ask these questions shows where we are at with it, really.
"This is something we need to constantly address because this issue is not going to go away, and it should not go away."
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