Summer Newlands has made history. Over the weekend, they won the first-ever nonbinary title at the USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships along the riverfront in Hartford, Conn.
The four athletes who competed in the inaugural nonbinary championship — Kristin Sunquist, Hen Watts, Sam Hansen and Newlands — will be forever etched into USA Cycling history.
For Hansen, a rider active in helping build inclusive events in their native Michigan and the state’s gender expansive cyclocross series champion, competing in the race was a strong declaration in and of itself.
“I refuse to race as someone that I’m not anymore. It’s not worth it,” they said. “How would you feel if you were told to race in a race full of people that were not your gender? Would that feel right to you? I don’t think that it would and that is how it feels for us.”
The rest of the field echoed similar thoughts. Watts, from Washington and racing for Breakfast Racing Team, won their state’s first nonbinary cyclocross championship in October.
They said the team’s emphasis on inclusion was the fuel that propelled them to the championships.
“I joined this team because it was specifically trans-inclusive and that was important to me,” they said. “I felt so-much love from my teammates and my co-captains. They sent me here with extra gear and it just left me feeling as prepared as I could be.”
The race began with Newlands and Sunquist charging to the front. Newlands, racing for Team S&M, took the lead through the inner labyrinth of the circuit. Sunquist was second but still had Newlands in contact.
Racing at the cyclocross nationals curbed Sunquist’s disappointment with the ruling.
“It was a good way to recapture the season for me,” Sunquist said. “I get to race in a championship race and I’m grateful for that.”
Newlands got a boost when Sunquist crashed while attempting to remount coming out of a muddy and hilly portion of the course on the first lap. Sunquist had to do some fast field maintenance to rejoin the race.
Their mishap added precious seconds to a growing lead for Newlands, who was riding with power and panoche through the 2.2-mile circuit. The final result was an inaugural national title for Newlands.
Sunquist finished second, followed by Watts in third and Hansen in fourth.
“I was going to be here coaching and fixing bikes anyway, so when I heard about this I figured let’s give it shot,” Newlands said with a smile. “I’ve been looking for a jersey for a long time and it's great to see it in a category aligned with my gender.”
Newlands donned the star-and-stripes championship jersey they’ve wanted to win since they began competing in the junior ranks. Every athlete on the podium flashed championship smiles, along with hopes that cycling keeps moving forward in terms of inclusion.
“It was a privilege to be here and feel so supported,” Watts said. “It’s got me fired up to come back and try for this title again.”