Austin Killips, a 27-year-old transgender cyclist, has won the women’s category at the Tour of the Gila in New Mexico. This is a significant victory for Killips, who identifies as a trans male from Chicago and only began cycling in 2019 after starting hormone replacement therapy. Killips has also won a medal in women’s cyclo-cross at the US National Championships and is now being tipped to challenge for a place at the Tour de France Femmes and the Paris Olympics next year.
This year’s Tour of the Gila marked the first time in its 36-year history that equal prize money was offered, with a total purse of $35,350 in both the men’s and women’s races. Killips earned almost £8,000 for finishing top of the women’s general classification, as well as an £800 bonus as “Queen of the Mountains.”
However, Killips’ success has been controversial, with some arguing that it highlights issues for women in cycling. Inga Thompson, a three-time US Olympian and five-time national road race champion, likened Killips to Lia Thomas, a transgender swimmer who won a US women’s collegiate title in 2020. Thompson argues that the pattern of transgender athletes competing in women’s sports is becoming more common and is leading to the bullying and silencing of female athletes.
Female riders have lobbied for an outright ban on transgender athletes competing in the women’s peloton. Last year, France’s triple world champion Marion Clignet presented the UCI with a survey showing that 92 per cent of female riders did not agree with trans athletes racing in the women’s category. However, the UCI’s liberal transgender policy currently allows Killips to compete, provided testosterone levels are suppressed below 2.5 nanomoles per litre over a two-year period.
Despite the controversy, Killips is a candidate to make the US Olympic women’s cycling team in Paris next summer. Thompson believes that this is only “common sense” given Killips’ impressive results in national and international competitions.